Two late goals carry Atletico Madrid to victory at Rayo Vallecano
Atletico Madrid left it late but eventually saw off local rivals Rayo Vallecano 2-0 thanks to goals by Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann.
The visitors dominated the first half but were pegged back by Paco Jemez's side after the break, only for substitute Correa to break the deadlock after 88 minutes and then an otherwise quiet Griezmann struck 90 seconds later to kill off the hosts.
This was an extra vital win for Atleti coming as it did after their shock defeat at Malaga before the Christmas break, and it temporarily takes them three points clear at top of the Primera Division before Barcelona's game with Real Betis, while Rayo remain 18th.
Diego Simeone's side could have gone into the dressing room at half-time three goals up, with Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Fernando Torres denied by saves from Yoel Rodriguez, while former Rayo loanee Saul Niguez was inches away from scoring against his old side, just shooting the wrong side of the far post.
Rayo came back into the game after the re-start and had Atleti against the ropes, but Javi Guerra and Lass Bangoura failed to do more with their shooting opportunities.
Instead it was Correa who took advantage. Atleti slowly worked the ball forward from defence with a series of short passes and fellow substitute Thomas Partey played a one-two with Saul before slipping the ball into the path of Correa, who smashed into the near corner.
Rayo lost possession quickly following the re-start and Atleti broke quickly, Jackson Martinez releasing Griezmann, and the Frenchman calmly chipped the ball over the body of Yoel, condemning Rayo to a fifth straight league defeat.