MADRID, April 13 (Reuters) - Real Madrid stayed on course to retain the Spanish title after they recovered from a first-half sending-off to clinch a 1-0 win over relegation-threatened Real Murcia at the Bernabeu on Sunday.
Real, who had won just one of their previous four matches, looked to be in trouble when fullback Miguel Torres was given a straight red for ploughing into Murcia midfielder Dani Aquino on 20 minutes.
But despite a poor performance they managed to make off with the points thanks to a flash of brilliance from Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder who curled a shot into the corner on the hour after dispossessing a defender on the edge of the area.
With six matches left to play, Real lead the table on 69 points, nine ahead of Barcelona, who were held 2-2 at Recreativo Huelva on Saturday, and 10 clear of Villarreal who are away to Almeria in Sunday's late match.
Behind the top three, the race for the remaining Champions League place hotted up after Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at Valladolid while Sevilla clinched a 3-2 win away against Real Mallorca.
Atletico looked to be on course for a narrow win after Argentine midfielder Maxi Rodriguez put the visitors in front with a spectacular half-volley midway through the second half.
But Valladolid snatched a valuable point when Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche got in behind the Atletico defence to steer home at the near post.
Atletico remain in fourth place on 54 points but are only one ahead of Racing Santander, who beat Valencia 2-1 on Saturday, and three clear of Sevilla.
The Andalucians claimed an important away win over Mallorca thanks to goals from Renato, Frederic Kanoute and Daniel Alves.
Espanyol continued their desperate run in the second half of the season when they lost their eighth game in 10 outings in a 1-0 defeat at home to Osasuna.
Basement side Levante claimed their first points in six games after a 1-0 win away to Real Betis but they remain seven points adrift of Murcia at the bottom.
Real Zaragoza are also in serious trouble after being held to a 0-0 draw at Getafe. They have won just three of their last 22 games and remain in the relegation places, three points behind Recreativo Huelva.
In the late game Almeria stunned Villarreal, winning 1-0 thanks to a late Santiago Acasiete strike.