MADRID, Nov 26 (Reuters) - A goal from captain Raul allowed Real Madrid to snatch a 1-0 win against Valencia at the Mestalla on Sunday and move up to second place in the Primera Liga.
Valencia dominated for long periods of an intense encounter but they paid the price for some profligate finishing while the visitors took full advantage of one of their rare attacks.
Raul steered home from eight metres out after Roberto Carlos had cut back a neat pass from the byline seven minutes into the second half.
Real are now just three points behind leaders Barcelona who crushed Villarreal 4-0 on Saturday.
Brazilian forward Ronaldinho opened the scoring with a penalty and wrapped up with a sublime overhead kick three minutes from time.
Sevilla, who slipped to third after Real's win, visit Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday.
Real Zaragoza missed a chance to keep the pressure on the leading trio when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo on Sunday and are now three points adrift of Real in fourth spot.
There were goals galore at El Sardinero, Serbian striker Nikola Zigic scoring two and winning a penalty as Racing Santander beat in-form Recreativo Huelva 4-3.
Osasuna moved out of the relegation zone after their first win in eight outings with a 4-1 destruction of Deportivo Coruna while Real Mallorca won 3-2 at basement side Gimnastic.
Injury-ravaged Valencia made all the running at the Mestalla, giving the Real back four a torrid time as they laid siege to the opposition area throughout the first half.
Winger David Silva tormented Michel Salgado on the left but Valencia's strike power was seriously undermined when David Villa, who suffered a thigh strain in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Olympiakos, limped off after just 15 minutes.
With fellow striker Fernando Morientes also nursing a thigh injury, Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores decided to keep the former Real Madrid striker on the bench and hope his side would eventually cash in on their domination.
But Real skipper Raul gave the home side a lesson in finishing when he steered home with a first-time shot from eight metres out after Roberto Carlos completed a slick counterattack by sliding the ball into his path from the byline.
Valencia should have equalised a little over a minute later when Iker Casillas turned a Joaquin shot into Miguel Angel Angulo's path but the midfielder somehow contrived to miss the target from point-blank range.
Vicente and Angulo missed further chances to score but Real hung on to take a valuable victory against Valencia who have now not won in five games.
Yesterday, Barcelona forward Ronaldinho turned on the style as he steered his side to an emphatic 4-0 win at home Villarreal that put them four points clear at the top of the Primera Liga on Saturday.
The Brazilian broke the deadlock in what had been an evenly balanced match when he fired home from the penalty spot 10 minutes before the break and completed the rout with a stunning goal to take his tally for the season to 10.
The win left the champions top with 29 points from 12 games, four ahead of Sevilla who travel to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and six clear of Real Madrid who are at Valencia.
Barca looked far from their fluent best in the opening half hour at the Nou Camp and were given a couple of early scares by Villarreal striker Diego Forlan.
But they were given a helping hand when Iceland striker Eidur Gudjohnsen manufactured a penalty 10 minutes before the break after he flung himself to the ground when defender Pascal Cygan laid a hand on his arm as he turned into the area.
Ronaldinho did the rest when he fired the resulting spot kick past keeper Mariano Barbosa and low into the corner.
The goal sparked Barca into life and it took some fine keeping from Barbosa to deny Deco, Ronaldinho and Giovanni van Bronckhorst before the break.
Gudjohnsen, however, found a way past the Argentine early in the second half when he nodded in at the far post after Andrea Iniesta floated the ball across the area following a Ronaldinho free kick.
The stylish Iniesta made it 3-0 with a spectacular finish when he threw himself at a Gianluca Zambrotta cross to volley the ball into the ground and send it skidding into the net.
He was outdone, however, by Ronaldinho who put the icing on the cake with his 10th league goal of the season two minutes from time.
Lurking in the area with his back to goal, the Brazilian controlled a neat pass from Xavi with his chest and then looped a perfectly weighted overhead kick beyond the reach of Barbosa and high into the net to bring the Nou Camp to its feet.
Meanwhile, in the day's only other game Atletico Madrid came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad.
The visitors, who went into the weekend at the foot of the table, threatened to record a shock victory through Garikoitz Uranga's 24th-minute opener.
But European hopefuls Atletico struck back with 13 minutes remaining when Ion Ansotegi put through his own net.