Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi scored his 18th league goal of the season as Villarreal put their midweek Europa League disappointment behind them with a 2-1 comeback win over Getafe at El Madrigal on Sunday.
Rossi scored a 74th minute winner that keeps alive Villarreal’s hopes of finishing third - and claiming a Champions League place - with the victory moving the club to within three points of third-placed Valencia, who fell to a 1-0 defeat to Osasuna.
Alvaro Cejudo scored a 59th minute winner to lift Osasuna out of the bottom three as Valencia crashed to successive league defeats.
Villarreal arrived on the back of a 5-1 drubbing by FC Porto in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final and fell behind to a Pedro Rios goal on 31 minutes.
However, Ruben Cani equalised for the hosts on the hour mark with a fine strike after a quick pass from Santi Cazorla.
Former Manchester United man Rossi then put Villarreal ahead on 74 minutes heading in Marco Ruben’s centre for his 18th goal of a stellar campaign.
“This was the first step towards thinking of the comeback against Porto on Thursday,” said Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido.
“Fourth place in the league would be a real achievement and a prize that we are very close to reaching.”
Getafe, recently taken over by Dubai’s Royal Emirates Group, finished a best ever sixth last season but Osasuna’s win over Valencia sees them drop into the bottom three with four games left.
Elsewhere Brazilian midfielder Renato scored a second half winner as Sevilla moved back up to fifth with a 1-0 win at 10-man Almeria.
Substitute Renato struck on 57 minutes to down strugglers Almeria and help Sevilla enhance their European hopes moving above Atletico Madrid courtesy of their superior head to head record.
Almeria reached the semifinals of the Kings Cup for the first time in their history this season, but prop up the table and the Sevilla defeat leaves them virtually relegated with the club 12 points from safety with four games left.
Almeria only avoid mathematical relegation because of their superior head to head record over Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna who are both 12 points ahead of them.
The game hinged on the dismissal of Almeria’s Danish full back Michael Jakobsen for a crude challenge on Martin Caceres in the 52nd minute and the Uruguayan defender was stretchered off injured.
Five minutes later Renato headed in the opening goal for Sevilla who held on despite a late fightback from the hosts.
Elsewhere Malaga took a giant stride towards safety with a 3-1 home win over 10-man relegation rivals Hercules.
Malaga came from behind to record a third straight victory and move two points clear of the relegation zone, while Hercules stay second from bottom, five points from safety.
Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdes headed Hercules into a third minute lead, but Malaga responded with Brazilian Julio Baptista equalising 60 seconds later.
Jose Rondon put Malaga ahead on 72 minutes before former Real Madrid man Baptista grabbed his second three minutes later to wrap up the points.
Racing Santander moved three points clear of the drop zone with a 2-0 home win over Real Mallorca thanks to first half goals from Markus Rosenberg and Kennedy Bakircioglu.
Barcelona and Real Madrid, set to face each other in Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg at Camp Nou, both fell to surprise defeats on Saturday.
After going nine years without losing a league home match Real coach Jose Mourinho watched his side lose their second inside a month as Zaragoza triumphed 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Barcelona could have moved to within touching distance of the title with victory at Real Sociedad, but fell to a 2-1 loss as their 32-game unbeaten league run came to an end.
Double champions Barcelona, eight points ahead of Madrid, need four points from the remaining four games to secure a third successive league title.