VILLARREAL, May 15 (Primera Liga) - High-flying Villarreal consigned Albacete to the Segunda Division on Sunday with a narrow victory at the Madrigal stadium.
Villarreal had a host of chances but it was Juan Roman Riquelme's solitary second-half penalty that put paid to Albacete, who bowed out of the top flight with barely a whimper.
At the top end of the table, Villarreal move back into third with this win, two points above Sevilla who played out a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid on Saturday.
It was as convincing a 1-0 victory as you can get for Villarreal and it was only a surprise that it took them 67 minutes to finally make the breakthrough.
Diego Forlan twice came close to getting on the scoresheet in the first half.
His first effort arrived after 20 minutes when a mazy run took him clear of two players before a fierce left-footed shot from the edge of the area brought a smart save from Ronald Gaspercic.
Then, five minutes before half-time, his shot from 15 yards came back off the base of the post into the arms of a very relieved Gaspercic.
Sandwiched in between those efforts Villarreal midfielder Santiago Cazorla also wasted a glorious chance after being allowed a free header inside the box.
Riquelme floated in a corner from the right and Cazorla, standing unmarked at the far post, seemed sure to nod home the game's opener.
But he contrived to head wide of the target and the game went into the break goalless, with Albacete's best efforts being two long-shots from Francisco that were not even on target.
Just when it was beginning to look like being a day of frustration for the Villarreal faithful though, the home side finally broke the deadlock midway through the second half.
Albacete's Agus Garcia was adjudged to have impeded Jose Mari Romero inside the box and, after referee Julian Rodriguez Santiago had pointed to the spot, Riquelme duly despatched the resulting penalty with ease.
Villarreal continued to press forward after the goal and Marcos Senna almost doubled the lead with 15 minutes to go with a rasping drive that just missed the upright.
And with 10 minutes remaining Forlan nearly gave the supporters a spectacular second with a shot from the halfway line that forced Gaspercic to retreat rapidly and turn the ball over the bar.
Villarreal were unable to sneak a second goal in the end but it mattered little in the grand scheme of things as the two clubs come towards the end of the season looking towards drastically different futures.
Villarreal could be gracing the likes of the San Siro and Old Trafford in the Champions League next year while Albacete must now start plotting trips to Ejido and Murcia in the Spanish second division.