Atletico Madrid returned to second place in the Primera Division with a solitary goal by Raul Garcia enough to see off rock-bottom Espanyol 1-0 and guide the Rojiblancos to within two points of Barcelona.
Raul Garcia headed home a superb cross from the right by Juanfran but, despite claiming their fifth straight league win, they were not wholly impressive and were stretched by an Espanyol side who remain anchored to the bottom of La Liga with just one point.
Tiago volleyed over from 20 yards in the third minute while Jorge Koke's left-footed shot caused few problems for Espanyol goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez with Atletico on top in the early stages.
Although clear-cut chances were few and far between, Atletico were the greater attacking force.
Arda Turan's weak shot was blocked and Koke headed over but there was no great quality until Raul Garcia's intervention after half an hour.
Juanfran curled in a pinpoint cross from the right which found Raul Garcia unmarked in the six-yard box and he headed home across the keeper.
Cristian Gomez curled a shot narrowly over three minutes later as Espanyol looked for an instant reply although Atletico almost doubled their lead when Koke hooked the ball over after pouncing on a mistake by Javi Lopez.
It took 50 minutes for Espanyol to test Thibaut Courtois but he was equal to Samuele Longo's strike.
The hosts were far more impressive in the second half but Atletico again almost doubled their lead, Alvarez going down to his left to parry a half-volley from Cristian Rodriguez following a classy ball from Gabi.
Espanyol were applying more pressure, Christian Stuani getting ahead of his marker but just failing to get his flicked header on target before Sergio Tejera shot wide.
Rodriguez's shot was tipped round the post by Alvarez and the visitors almost got a second in stoppage-time when Adrian superbly controlled a lofted pass and twisted and turned before shooting through the keeper's legs only for defender Raul Rodriguez to intercept.
The ball undoubtedly bounced up and hit the defender on the arm but it would have been incredibly harsh should he have been penalised.
Espanyol almost equalised in the second minute of injury time when Stuani was inches wide with a header but the visitors held on.