Benzema brace, Atletico held
Karim Benzema continued his fine recent form with a brace to help Real Madrid down lowly Hercules 2-0 and cut Barcelona's lead at the Primera Division summit to four points.
Benzema took his tally to eight goals in his last six matches after netting in the 24th and 56th minutes, leading Madrid to their 24th successive home win in all competitions.
For Hercules, the defeat leaves them stuck in the bottom three with just six points and three goals from 15 away games this season.
Atletico Madrid lost more ground in the race for Europe as they were held to a 2-2 draw by lowly Almeria.
Atletico took the lead as Tiago pounced on a Crusat error and chipped a clever ball forward to Sergio Aguero, who got past Diego Alves and slotted the ball into the empty net. Almeria deservedly levelled three minutes into the second half when Crusat volleyed Luis Perea's poor clearance into the corner from 16 yards.
Aguero then advanced into the area and slotted a low left-footed drive into the bottom corner to make it 2-1 on the hour, but Atletico were once again unable to hold on to their advantage as Goitom headed home from seven yards with 13 minutes remaining.
Valencia were thrashed 4-0 by Real Zaragoza to round off a disappointing week for Unai Emery's men.
Just three days after being dumped out of the Champions League by Schalke, Valencia were comprehensively outplayed at La Romareda and fell to goals from Jiri Jarosik and Ander Herrera, plus two penalties from Gabi.
Marius Stankevicius was also sent off for the visitors to cap a miserable evening.