John Toshack's Murcia, eight points adrift of second-bottom RC Celta de Vigo at the foot of the table, battled gamely for long periods, curtailing the home side's attacking intentions through sheer endeavour. Mauricio Pellegrino only opened the scoring in the 73rd minute, heading in a Jorge López corner before Mista sealed the victory, tidying up a scramble in the box for his 18th league goal of the season.
Leaders Madrid also struggled to conform to expecations on Saturday, seeing off another relegation-threatened side, Albacete Balompié, 2-1. Albacete had won their previous three home games but Roberto Carlos prevented a fourth victory, striking in the 18th minute when his free-kick deflected past goalkeeper Manuel Alumnia. The Brazilian also paved the way for Luís Figo's second in the 71st minute. Libero Parri halved the deficit soon after but the visitors held out to collect all three points ahead of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg against AS Monaco FC on Wednesday.
RC Deportivo La Coruña, who face AC Milan in Europe's showpiece competition on Tuesday, effectively bid farewell to their title hopes, surrendering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home against Real Betis Balompié. First-half strikes from forward Albert Luque and Victor put Deportivo 2-0 up after 17 minutes but the Seville side pulled one back when Marcos Assuncão drilled in a free-kick on the half hour. Substitute Dani bundled in 19 minutes from time to leave the Galician team ten points behind Madrid.
UEFA Cup hopefuls Villarreal CF scuppered FC Barcelona's bid for a tenth consecutive league victory, holding the fourth-placed Catalan side, who have a game in hand after last week's match against Betis was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, to a goalless draw at the Camp Nou. Club Atlético de Madrid, in fifth, gained ground following their 2-1 defeat of Real Valladolid with goals from Fernando Torres and Veljko Paunovic cancelling out Pablo Richetti's strike. A solitary 51st-minute effort from Antoñito was enough for Sevilla FC, ninth, to defeat RCD Espanyol.
Draws were the order of the day elsewhere. Athletic Club Bilbao and visiting Celta cancelled each other out 0-0, while RCD Mallorca's home game against Real Sociedad de Fútbol and CA Osasuna's match with visiting Málaga CF both produced 1-1 draws. Real Zaragoza and Real Racing Club Santander served up four goals but the spoils were shared. Dani and David Vílla slotted in for the home side but Pablo Casar and Fernando Morán registered for the visitors.