A header from substitute Walter Pandiani gave Espanyol a 1-0 victory to consign struggling Real Betis to their fifth consecutive defeat on Thursday.
Espanyol moved up to sixth in the table with their third consecutive triumph while the alarm bells are ringing at Betis who won their first four matches of the campaign but have lost every game since.
It was a match of fine saves and poor finishing and appeared to be heading for a stalemate until Pandiani?s introduction made the difference.
In the first half Benat Etxebarria had a shot from distance for Betis which was well saved by keeper Cristian Alvarez, while at the other end Javi Marquez and Joan Verdu also went close.
Alvaro Vazquez though was guilty of fluffing several chances in both halves before he was replaced by ?El Rifle? Pandiani who headed Espanyol to victory with 16 minutes to go.
Later Athletic Bilbao entertain Atletico Madrid in a match between sides with contrasting fortunes. Athletic are on an upward curve and have now gone six games without defeat while Atletico are struggling in front of goal and have gone six games without a win.
On Wednesday, a first half exhibition of attacking play set Real Madrid up for a 3-0 win over Villarreal but they still trail surprise leaders Levante who came from behind to beat Real Sociedad 3-2.
Real are in blistering form and have now scored 28 goals in their last seven games in all competitions, an average of four a match.
"All the players at the moment are playing at their best. The coach is demanding 100 per cent and that is what we are giving. It?s clear that the players are happy at the moment but now more than ever we mustn?t get carried away," said Real defender Sergio Ramos.
"We are on a high and maybe this would be a good time to play against Barca."
A sensational injury time winner against Sociedad kept Levante in pole position.
The modest side from Valencia are beating all before them in a superb start to the season.
"We are not used to playing three games a week. The run we are on at the moment is almost impossible and in this game we could have easily dropped points," said Levante coach Juan Martinez.
"When we were behind, the team had to respond and they have confidence at the moment and a small amount of luck which you need."
The European and domestic champions Barcelona find themselves down in third and they appear to have lost some of the zest from their attacking play lately.
A Xavi Hernandez free-kick gave a lacklustre Barca a 1-0 win over nine-man Granada which extended their club record run to seven games without conceding a goal.