Karim Benzema bagged a brace after Emmanuel Adebayor's opener as Real Madrid brushed aside Racing Santander.
Even with several players missing - not least Cristiano Ronaldo - Madrid had far too much for their hosts.
Adebayor scored the simplest of openers in the 23rd minute before Benzema added a second moments later.
Pablo Pinillos' awful penalty wasted a chance for Racing to get back into the game, and although they briefly threatened after Kennedy Bakircioglu did get a goal, Benzema quickly ended the threat with his second.
Adebayor missed a late penalty, but Madrid had already done enough to move back seven points behind leaders Barcelona.
Athletic Bilbao breathed fresh life back into their bid for a top-six finish after ending a run of four successive defeats with a 2-0 victory over fellow European hopefuls Sevilla.
An own goal from Sevilla defender Federico Fazio midway through the second half put Athletic ahead and the hosts settled the contest with Andoni Iraola's late penalty.
The triumph sees Athletic climb up two places to fifth in the Primera Division standings, taking advantage of Espanyol`s shock defeat to Levante earlier this evening.
Rock-bottom Almeria came from behind to stun relegation rivals Hercules and earn three crucial points with a 2-1 away win.
Trailing to Abraham Paz's header early in the second half, Almeria had looked to be heading for yet another defeat.
However, they hit back through Sofiane Feghouli in the 70th minute before Modeste M'Bami's winner moments later.
Espanyol's poor recent form continued as they lost 1-0 at lowly Levante.
The Barcelona-based side, who had lost five of their previous six league games, were edged out in this match by Felipe Caicedo's first-half goal.
Caicedo got in front of Jordi Amat to head home from Valmiro Valdo's cross after 26 minutes and give Levante a lead they had deserved following their early dominance.
Sporting Gijon climbed out of the relegation zone after ending their five-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory over stumbling Getafe at El Molinon.
First-half goals from Miguel de las Cuevas and Andre Castro decided the game in favour of Sporting, who move two points clear of the bottom three with the victory.
Sporting finished the match with 10 men following the 85th-minute dismissal of Alberto Lora, but there was still no way back for Getafe, who now find themselves only seven points above the drop zone after another disappointing result.
A Sergio Fernandez header deep into added time gave Osasuna their first away win of the season tonight as they overcame relegation-threatened Malaga 1-0 at La Rosaleda.
Sergio rose to head home from a corner in the 93rd minute to ensure a dramatic ending to a lively and entertaining game.
Barcelona took another step towards retaining the title but looked far from convincing in winning 1-0 against Real Zaragoza.
Seydou Keita, who had earlier seen an effort controversially ruled out for offside, scored the only goal of the game when he slid home Lionel Messi's low cross just before the break.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola took his place on the bench despite having been released from hospital only hours before the game.
Guardiola, who was admitted with a lower back problem on Thursday, was visibly struggling as he took his seat and was a less animated figure than usual.
The win put Barca provisionally 10 points clear of Real Madrid, who play Racing Santander tomorrow.
Pablo Hernandez struck both goals as Valencia came from behind to beat Real Mallorca 2-1 and ensure they would finish the weekend still in third place.
Mallorca took a 31st-minute lead through an Ivan Ramis penalty but Valencia needed just two minutes to get back on level terms thanks to Pablo, who then struck the winning goal 11 minutes into the second half.
Villarreal had their hopes of breaking the top three checked by an impressive Atletico Madrid performance at the Vicente Calderon.
Jose Antonio Reyes got the ball rolling after five minutes for Atletico before the dangerous Giuseppe Rossi brought parity to proceedings 10 minutes before half-time.
Atletico's highly-rated front two of Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero then made their presence felt, scoring within four minutes of each other to ensure the home win.
Sunday Match Reviews
Saturday Match Reviews