MADRID, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Atletico and Real Madrid produced 90 minutes of high-adrenaline tension in their vital BBVA Primera Liga clash which was the standout game of the weekend in Spain.
In a game littered with foul, dives and bad-tempered moments which saw Atletico assistant coach Mono Burgos sent off and then need to be physically restrained by other members of the Atletico bench, Real Madrid took the lead after 2 minutes.
Recent history indicted that they would then probably go on to a comfortable win, but Atletico reacted magnificently and by halftime they were ahead thanks to goals from Koke and Gabi Fernandez, whose shot from virtually his own backyard fizzed past Diego Lopez in the Real Madrid goal.
Both sides had penalty appeals turned down in a difficult match for referee Delgado Ferreiro, and Atletico paid for Diego Costa's failure to convert a chance when clean through on goal when Cristiano Ronaldo equalized with eight minutes remaining.
The result means Real Madrid remain three points clear of Atletico, but gave Barcelona the chance to close the gap on the top of the table to just one point with a win at home to Almeria.
Barca started brightly and quickly took a 2-0 lead thanks to a Messi free kick and a goal from Alexis Sanchez, but Almeria pulled a goal back as Angel Trujillo took advantage of Barca's habitual inability to defend corner kicks.
The second half saw Barca once again look far from convincing, but Carles Puyol made the points safe from close range after Messi had headed against the crossbar following a corner eight minutes from time and a fine curling shot from Xavi Hernandez assured a 4-1 win that was not as convincing as the score suggests.
Athletic Club Bilbao strengthened their grip of fourth place with a 4-0 victory over Granada on Friday night thanks partly to a magnificent hat-trick from striker, Aritz Aduriz and a late strike from Carlos Gurpegui.
Athletic were then able to enjoy as their two closest rivals, Villarreal and Real Sociedad dropped points. Villarreal could only draw 1-1 at home to bottom of the table Betis, who once again complained about the referee after Bruno Soriano put Villarreal ahead from the penalty spot.
Ruben Castro assured a point for Betis with a second half header, but the point does little to help Betis' battle to avoid the drop.
Real Sociedad meanwhile lost 1-1 away to Sevilla, whose candidacy for a place in Europe gained credibility thanks to Kevin Gamero' s battling goal 13 minutes from time.
Joaquin Larrivey scored what could be a vital goal to give Rayo Vallecano a 1-0 win at home to Valencia. Rayo are still second bottom of the table with but with other results going their way they have moved closer to maintaining their place in the top flight.
Saturday's matches also saw the focus placed on the battle against relegation as Malaga and Valladolid drew 1-1, a result which leaves Valladolid in the relegation zone and Malaga with a three point cushion above their rivals.
Roque Santa Cruz and Sebastian Larsson scored the goals which ended with the Malaga fans demanding the sacking of coach Bernd Schuster.
Getafe set a new club record of 11 matches without a win as they could only draw 0-0 in a turgid game at home to Espanyol, while Carles Gil's late goal against Celta saw his side open up a 6 point cushion of the drop zone.
Finally first half goals from Papa Diop and Ruben Garcia saw Levante defeat Osasuna 2-0.