David Villa scored twice from the penalty spot to help Valencia to a 4-1 victory at home to Getafe in the Primera Liga on Sunday, putting them back in the hunt for a place in next season's Champions League.
Unai Emery's side moved up to fifth on 46 points with nine games left, three above Atletico Madrid who fell 4-2 at home Osasuna, and just two short of near neighbours Villarreal in the last Champions League qualification slot.
Barcelona are top with 72 points, six ahead of Real Madrid after both won 1-0 away against Real Valladolid and Malaga respectively on Saturday.
Sevilla are third with 57 points after beating Recreativo Huelva 1-0 away on Saturday, when fourth-placed Villarreal slumped 3-0 at Almeria. At the Mestalla, David Silva set up Juan Mata for Valencia's opener with a superb pass in the 20th minute, and soon after tumbled for Villa to score from the penalty spot.
Francisco Casquero pulled one back for the visitors with another dubious penalty just after the break, but defender Raul Albiol blasted in a long-range third for Valencia.
Villa was brought down for another penalty, after which visiting goalkeeper Jacobo Sanz was sent off, and the Spain international netted his 21st goal of the campaign.
Earlier, Atletico's hopes of returning to the Champions League next season were dealt a blow when Osasuna notched their first away win in the league this season. It owed much to some slack defending from the home side.
Osasuna's Uruguayan striker Walter Pandiani opened the scoring with a free header before Diego Forlan netted an equaliser in the 15th minute.
Krisztian Vadocz scrambled in at a corner, Pandiani was unmarked again for his second just after halftime and Iranian forward Masoud dribbled his way through for an outstanding fourth. Pablo Ibanez pulled another back for Atletico.
After impressive performances against the top four, Atletico have lost consecutive matches against sides battling against relegation.
"We are struggling to adjust. Games against theoretically weaker teams aren't easier. Osasuna were better and there are no excuses," said Atletico coach Abel Resino.
Atletico, whose fans barracked the players and board after the final whistle, are sixth with 43 points ahead of Malaga and Deportivo Coruna on goal difference.
Depor failed to capitalise on Atletico's defeat when they fell 3-1 away to bottom club Espanyol, who notched only their second win in 20 league matches.
The Barcelona-based club kept alive their hopes of avoiding relegation and are now six points from Getafe and safety, behind Numancia and Recreativo.