Real Madrid and Gareth Bale enjoyed a welcome 2-0 win over Levante to close the gap to Barcelona at La Liga's summit to one point.
A winless run of three matches in all competitions heading into Sunday's encounter led to questions over coach Carlo Ancelotti's future, while Bale's performances have also come in for heavy scrutiny.
The Wales winger found the ideal response by opening the scoring after 19 minutes and turning home Cristiano Ronaldo's shot shortly before half-time.
Victory means Real head into next weekend's pivotal El Clasico showdown at Camp Nou with the title race firmly in the balance.
Levante end the weekend third bottom as Almeria drew 0-0 with Villarreal earlier on Sunday to edge ahead of them on goal difference.
The strugglers held out for what could prove to be a vital point, despite playing 50 minutes with 10 men after Mauro dos Santos collected a pair of bookings.
Villarreal are now three points behind fifth-placed Sevilla, who were 3-0 winners over Elche at La Bombonera de Nervion.
Carlos Bacca opened the scoring from the penalty spot and doubled his tally in the 31st minute.
Kevin Gameiro replaced the goalscorer during the closing stages and got his own name on the scoresheet nine minutes from time.
In Sunday's other game, Malaga inflicted further misery on basement boys Cordoba with a 2-0 victory.
The opening half was goalless before Juanmi slotted home to hand the hosts a deserved lead three minutes after the restart, while Nordin Amrabat sealed the points as Cordoba pushed for an equaliser.comments