MADRID, Feb 3 (Reuters) - A superb late strike from midfielder Xavi earned Barcelona a nerve-racking 1-0 win at home to Osasuna on Sunday that allowed them to close to within six points of leaders Real Madrid at the top of the table.
The Catalans seemed to be running out of ideas as they struggled to break down the dogged Osasuna defence but two minutes from time Xavi popped up on the edge of the area and sent an unstoppable first-time shot flying into the net.
Real, who dropped their first points in nine games when they went down 2-0 at Almeria on Saturday, lead the standings on 53 points from 22 games, while Barcelona follow on 47.
Espanyol were the only other side in the top six to win but they had to stage a desperate rearguard action to edge a 1-0 victory at Getafe that lifted them into third spot in the table eight points behind city rivals Barca.
Villarreal, who drew 1-1 at home to Real Mallorca, are in fourth, level on 39 points with Espanyol and one ahead of Atletico Madrid who were also held at their own stadium, drawing 1-1 against Real Murcia at the Calderon.
Ronald Koeman's Valencia ended their miserable run in the league when they recorded their first win in 10 outings with a 2-0 victory at Valladolid.
A well taken goal from midfielder Juan Mata on the hour and a simple tap-in from striker David Villa 12 minutes later were enough to end Valencia's three-match losing streak and push them up into ninth place.
Sevilla continued their revival with a 2-1 win at Recreativo Huelva, Primera Liga leading scorer Luis Fabiano taking his tally for the season to 16 with a two classy strikes, one at the end of each half.
The Andalucians are now just two points behind Racing Santander in seventh place in the table.
Barcelona were held 1-1 at Athletic Bilbao last weekend and their anxiety to make up for that setback appeared to get the better of them at the Nou Camp.
Despite creating a host of scoring opportunities in the first half they failed to get the ball in the net, Andres Iniesta, Thierry Henry and Bojan Krkic all guilty of missing clear chances.
Barca grew increasingly frustrated after the break and Frank Rijkaard brought on Ronaldinho and Giovani dos Santos for Lionel Messi and Henry in the hope they would liven up the attack.
But it was midfielder Xavi who finally came to the rescue, blasting home his first-time shot after an Iniesta effort had rebounded into his path in the 88th minute.