Malaga shrugged off a poor first-half performance to beat local rivals Sevilla 2-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and consolidate fourth spot in the Primera Division on Saturday evening.
The visitors were lucky to be on level terms at the break after Alvaro Negredo hit the post for a dominant home side after just two minutes.
And Sevilla paid for their profligacy in the second period as Martin Demichelis headed Malaga in front and Eliseu made it 2-0 from the penalty spot after Federico Fazio saw red for bringing down Joaquin Sanchez.
Athletic Bilbao moved nine points clear of the relegation zone thanks to a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca.
Aritz Aduriz's 11th-minute header proved the difference, although Athletic were just as thankful to goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for the three points as Mallorca stumbled to their ninth defeat in 11 league games.
Diego Castro's penalty deep into stoppage time salvaged a 1-1 draw for Getafe against Osasuna in a game desperately lacking in quality at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum.
The match only came to life after Emiliano Armenteros had been sent off for the visitors 12 minutes from time for a wild lunge on Juan Valera.
Despite having lost a man, Jose Mendilibar's men seemed set for all three points when Kike Sola weaved a way through the Getafe defence to slot home six minutes from time.
But Osasuna were cruelly denied a second away win of the campaign in the final minute of stoppage time as Oier was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area and Castro stroked home from the spot.
Finally, Granada and Real Sociedad battled out a goalless draw in a match of precious few chances at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenas.
Sunday & Monday Preview
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has been hailed as the greatest player of all-time by team-mate and fellow Argentinian Javier Mascherano.
On Sunday, Atletico's own hot-shot Radamel Falcao both likely to be on show at the Nou Camp.
Messi and Falcao have 39 league goals between them already this season with the former breaking Gerd Muller's all-time record for the number of goals in a calendar year, previously 85, in Barcelona's win at Real Betis last weekend.
Meanwhile Falcao, who missed training with a muscle injury on Thursday but is expected to play from the start on Sunday, smashed five goals in Atletico's 6-0 hammering of Deportivo on the same evening.
But it is the continuing goalscoring exploits of Messi, who has moved three ahead of Muller after netting twice against Betis and twice again in the cup win over Cordoba, which set him apart from the rest according to Mascherano.
"Messi is unique because he is already the best player in the history of this sport," Mascherano said.
"We are talking about 88 goals as if it were something normal but what he has done is incredible. This is a lad who has been touched by a magic wand."
But the top-of-the-table clash is not just about the two main goalscoring protagonists as Barcelona look to extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points with a win over Atletico.
Arch rivals Real Madrid are already 11 points adrift but Barcelona midfielder Xavi is not ruling either of the Madrid giants out of the title hunt.
"Atletico Madrid are rivals and have not given up after they lost to Madrid, far from it," he said. "It is increasingly difficult to win - Madrid can overcome many things and it is far too early to predict anything and start speculating."
Madrid also play Sunday night when they host Espanyol at the Bernabeu, with the visitors languishing in 19th place in the table and with only one away win in the league so far this season.
Ernesto Valverde has won his first two games as coach of Valencia and will look to keep the improvement going against Rayo Vallecano at the Mestalla, while Sunday's other game sees Real Zaragoza take on Levante.
Bottom side Deportivo play on Monday when they host eighth-placed Real Valladolid, with Real Betis travelling to Celta Vigo on the same night.
Saturday's La Liga Results
Sunday's La Liga Fixtures
Monday's La Liga Fixtures
Deportivo La Coruna vs Real Valladolid
Celta Vigo vs Real Betis