Barcelona were indebted to goalkeeper Victor Valdes for producing two super saves to secure a 1-1 draw from a tough assignment against Valencia at the Mestalla.
The visitors had the opportunity to establish an 18-point gap over arch-rivals Real Madrid, but turned in a performance well below their usual high standards as Valencia were unfortunate not to take the win.
Ever Banega opened the scoring with the first shot of the match after 33 minutes, but Valencia's lead lasted just five minutes as Lionel Messi fired home from the penalty spot after Pedro had gone to ground in the area under the challenge of Joao Pereira.
Valencia came closest to winning the match in the second half but Valdes produced two saves out of the top drawer to first deny Sergio Canales and then the dangerous Roberto Soldado.
Atletico Madrid cut the gap to Barcelona at the top of the Primera Division to nine points as Diego Costa's second-half header was enough to hand them all three points against disappointing Real Betis.
Arda Turan had a hat-trick of early chances but failed to find the net as Atleti started brightly, but the game descended into a scrappy affair with both defences on top until Betis goalkeeper Adrian flapped at a corner just after the hour mark and Costa was on hand to nod home his 11th goal of the season.
Atleti's 20th successive home victory maintained their 100 per cent record at the Calderon this season, while a second straight defeat for Betis leaves them in fifth.
Malaga's Champions League push suffered a blow as they were held 1-1 at home by lowly Real Zaragoza.
The hosts fell behind to an early Helder Postiga strike and although Alarcon Isco levelled from the penalty spot 10 minutes later, Malaga were far from their best with Zaragoza enjoying the majority of the game's chances.
However, some of Zaragoza's joy at claiming a tough point away from home was dampened by the last-minute dismissal of Jose Mari for a second bookable offence.
Sevilla's resurgence under Unai Emery continued as they won 2-1 against Rayo Vallecano, their fourth consecutive home win, thanks to goals from Ivan Rakitic and Alvaro Negredo.
Negredo missed a host of chances as Sevilla dominated the first period, but they were eventually gifted a half-time lead moments before the break. Ruben Martinez rushed from his goal to clear but only succeeded in presenting the ball to Rakitic who chipped delicately into an empty net from 40 yards.
Rayo were level though six minutes into the second half as Fernando Navarro pulled down Alejandro Dominguez as he tried to connect with Roberto Trashorras' corner and Dominguez himself stepped up to send the ball low past Beto.
However, Sevilla were back in front just three minutes later as wonderful play from Jesus Navas and Coke set up Negredo to backheel the ball in from close range for his third goal in as many games over the past six days.
Sevilla held on despite having Rakitic sent-off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time.
Real Mallorca's bid to revive their flagging fortunes after the January transfer window were immediately undermined by a 3-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.
The Islanders called new names Fernando Tissone and Alan Hutton into their starting XI, while Antonio Lopez returned on the bench, but they failed to provide any inspiration as Mallorca instead lost ground in their survival fight.
Javi Marquez's dismissal on the half-hour, following two cautions in the space of four minutes, paved the way for Sociedad to surge to victory after half-time with goals from Gonzalo Castro, Carlos Vela and Diego Irfan.
New Granada boss Lucas Alcaraz enjoyed a dream first game in charge as his side pulled off a shock 1-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.
Alcaraz took over this week following the sacking of Juan Antonio Anquela, who left with the club in 17th place in the standings, two points above the relegation zone.
Osasuna's win over Celta Vigo earlier on Saturday meant Granada had dropped into the bottom three by kick-off, but they climbed out again thanks to an own goal from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Karim Benzema's horrible miss six minutes from time summed up a poor evening for Madrid, who struggled to create clear-cut chances throughout the game.
Espanyol continued their climb away from the relegation zone with a deserved home 3-2 win over Levante.
Two goals in as many second-half minutes from Christian Stuani and Sergio Garcia effectively secured a win that was made to look more nervy after a late Obafemi Martins strike.
Espanyol dominated the opening period but relied on Vicente Iborra's own goal to hold a 1-0 half-time lead they relinquished almost immediately after the break to Ruben's clever header.
Getafe registered their first win in 10 games as they came from a goal and a man down inside 11 minutes to beat Deportivo la Coruna 3-1.
Miguel Angel Moya was sent off for bringing down Riki inside the area early on and Pizzi converted the resulting penalty to give the visitors the perfect start.
However, the hosts were level at the break as Diego Castro also scored from the spot after Ze Castro had upended Abdel Barrada, and when Depor's Abel Aguilar was sent off for a second bookable offence with 20 minutes to go, Luis Garcia's men took full advantage with two goals in two minutes from Alvaro Vasquez and Adrian Colunga.
Emiliano Armenteros' second-half strike was enough to move Osasuna out of the relegation zone as they leapfrogged Celta Vigo with a 1-0 win at the Reyno de Navarra.
The hosts controlled a first period that was disturbed a fierce wind in Pamplona and could easily have been in front before the break as Armenteros saw a header come back off the crossbar and Alvaro Cejudo was twice denied by good saves from Javi Varas.
However, the goal did arrive just 10 minutes after the break as Lolo cushioned a header into the Argentine's path and he rifled the ball low past Varas to register just his third goal and Osasuna's fourth home league win of the season.
Athletic Bilbao battled from two goals down to earn a creditable 2-2 draw at Real Valladolid in the Primera Division clash at the Jose Zorrilla.
Goals from Javi Guerra and Alberto Bueno in the first 15 minutes put Miroslav Dukic's side in the ascendancy, but Oscar de Marcos' 21st-minute strike gave Athletic hope and then Markel Susaeta salvaged a draw for the visitors early in the second half.
The stalemate left Valladolid 10th in the standings - still three points and three positions better off than their opponents.