Deportivo La Coruna got the perfect start under new coach Domingos Paciencia with a second-half Luis Pizzi strike giving them a 1-0 win over high-flying Malaga which took them off the bottom of La Liga.
Malaga appeared to be still on their holidays against a Depor side eager to impress Paciencia after a disappointing return to the top flight particularly in defence where they have conceded 39 goals so far.
Paciencia has a record as a strong defensive coach and although in charge for a handful of training sessions there was a marked improvement while they also carried a threat going forward.
The first moment of danger for Malaga came from a shot by Bruno Gama from a tight angle that was well saved by goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Pizzi hit a post with a 25-yard free-kick after 32 minutes and as Depor continued to press, Andre Santos played in Gama whose first touch let him down and Caballero smothered his shot.
Still Malaga could have gone ahead before the break but Joaquin Sanchez was denied by a good block from Daniel Aranzubia.
Pizzi finally made the breakthrough after 57 minutes as he latched onto a bad pass from Jesus Gamez and rounded Martin Demichelis before firing into the roof of the net.
Even a goal behind Malaga were lacklustre and Deportivo hung on without too many problems to claim a crucial win in their bid to avoid the drop.
Earlier Levante kept their European hopes on track with a 3-1 victory over 10-man Athletic Bilbao.
Aritz Aduriz gave Athletic an early lead and then Christian Lell equalised but the game turned on the dismissal of Aymeric Laporte with Vicente Iborra and Nabil El Zhar giving Levante a comfortable win in the end.
Valencia also benefited from a man extra as they beat Granada 2-1.
Following the first half dismissal of Mikel Rico, Granada did go ahead through Brayan Angulo but Valencia fought back with goals from Jonas Goncalves and Pablo Piatti.
On Sunday, Barcelona have coach Tito Vilanova back after cancer surgery as they look to extend their record start in La Liga to 17 wins from a possible 18 in their derby clash with Espanyol.
Real Madrid have fallen 16 points behind and face Real Sociedad, while Atletico Madrid, who lead the chasing pack behind Barca, are away at Mallorca.