Atletico Madrid defeated Malaga 2-0 to secure their fourth consecutive win and regain third place in La Liga on Saturday.
Koke scored in the first half and Filipe Luis sealed the victory in the second to move Atletico one point ahead of Sevilla, who host relegation-wary Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
Malaga controlled possession from the start at their La Rosaleda Stadium but it was Atletico who capitalised on their chances, with Koke and Luis scoring from inside the area.
Diego Simeone's team won three straight league games going into the international break to get back in the fight for an automatic spot in the Champions League group stage next season.
Atletico had been outside of the top three since the 10th round, and dropped as low as sixth after briefly leading the league in the earlier rounds. It was the sixth game without a win for Malaga, who dropped to 16th.
Villarreal's hopes of finishing in the top four of La Liga suffered a fresh blow as they slumped to a 3-2 defeat at home to Eibar.
Villarreal were left seven points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid after losing to Las Palmas in their last match before the international break and they received another setback on Saturday.
The hosts scored first and last at El Madrigal through Roberto Soriano's brace in the 18th and 89th minutes, but Eibar netted three times in between to claim a victory that moves them to within four points of their opponents.
Pedro Leon's hotly disputed 48th-minute penalty brought the Basque side level, before goals from Kike and Takashi Inui put the game beyond Villarreal's reach.
Real Sociedad's 1-1 draw at home to struggling Leganes takes them up to fifth, a point above Villarreal.
Eusebio Sacristan's hosts surprisingly found themselves a goal down when Alexander Szymanowski's persistence paid off to give Leganes the lead just before the half-hour.
Juanmi levelled seven minutes after the break, but Sociedad could not find the winner on a rainy evening in San Sebastian against opponents still languishing down in 17th place.
Athletic Bilbao remained three points above Eibar thanks to first-half goals from Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams in a 2-1 win away to bottom-of-the-table Osasuna.
Aduriz had Ernesto Valverde's visitors in front by the 12th minute, and it was 2-0 when Williams struck just before the break
Osasuna had chances to get back in the match, though, and Sergio Leon made Athletic sweat when he narrowed the deficit in the 79th minute.
But there was to be no equaliser for a team who have won just once all season -- back in October away to Eibar -- and they are still rooted to the bottom with just 11 points from 29 matches.