Angel Correa off his game, Vitolo sent off as Atletico crumble late at Villarreal
Any tiny hopes of a title race disappeared as Atletico Madrid once again came unstuck at the Estadio de la Ceramica to fall 11 points behind Barcelona.
In truth, they didn't deserve much more as Villarreal's unbeaten run over Diego Simeone's men extended to six games.
For once, Atletico could count themselves to be on the lucky side of a refereeing call when Antoine Griezmann went down softly under Jaume Costa's challenge 20 minutes in and only the assistant referee saw enough contact to award a penalty. Griezmann duly dispatched the spot-kick for his 23rd goal of the season, and, other than a Koke effort that came back off the post, Atletico offered precious little else going forward.
Plenty of times Simeone's men have seen these games out, but they were made to pay when Enes Unal struck twice in the final 10 minutes when Atletico failed to clear their lines. And a bad day got even worse when Vitolo was shown a straight red card in a bad-tempered finale.
No more injuries for a stretched squad. That's it. Just a third league defeat of the season not only sees Barcelona disappear into the distance, but could allow Real Madrid to close to within four points in the race to be second-best.
Tiredness may have played its part as Atletico unravelled in the final 10 minutes, and that has to be a concern with so few players for Simeone to call on between now and the end of the season.
Vitolo also now faces a ban, which won't aid his efforts to get a stuttering Atletico career so far up to speed.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- Simeone sent out the right message with an attacking starting XI that included Griezmann, Diego Costa and Angel Correa but resorted to type in settling for what he had once in front, most notably replacing Griezmann with Gabi just before the equaliser.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 6 -- Faultless for both goals but not given enough protection as Atletico got deeper and deeper as the game progressed.
DF Sime Vrsaljko, 6 -- His nice cross set up Koke for the shot that came off the post and could have made all the difference by putting Atletico 2-0 up.
DF Jose Maria Gimenez, 6 -- Defended manfully but could arguably have done more to prevent Villarreal's aerial bombardment late on.
DF Diego Godin, 6 -- Dominant for 80 minutes, he couldn't continue to repel Villarreal as Atletico didn't give themselves a chance by playing further up the field.
DF Lucas Hernandez, 6 -- Set for a long spell at left-back in the absence of Filipe Luis, and whilst a solid defender, doesn't offer anywhere near the same attacking threat.
MF Koke, 5 -- Unlucky with effort that came back off the woodwork, but didn't do enough to get on the ball after the break.
MF Thomas Partey, 6 -- Simeone continues to put his faith in the Ghanaian, and this energetic performance showed why he was chosen ahead of Gabi.
MF Saul Niguez, 6 -- Out-jumped by Unal for the equaliser but had put in an incredible athletic shift until that point.
MF Angel Correa, 5 -- Still an enigma. Magnificent in Moscow in midweek, the game passed him by before he was sacrificed for Vitolo.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 7 -- Bought the penalty and converted it but should have been left on the pitch with the game finely balanced.
FW Diego Costa, 6 -- Produced a masterclass in hold-up play before the break but became more and more isolated as the match wore on, and also picked up an unnecessary booking as Atletico's frustration showed at the end.
MF Vitolo (for Correa), NR -- Missed a big chance to score the winner at 1-1 and then got himself sent off.
MF Gabi (for Griezmann), NR -- Brought on to see the game out at 1-0, instead saw his side concede twice in his 10 minutes on the field.
FW Torres (for Koke), NR -- Scored in Moscow, but lightning doesn't strike twice in a week.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.