Luciano Vietto’s first goal for Atletico Madrid seven minutes from time earned the hosts a deserved share of the spoils against Real Madrid in a 1-1 draw on Sunday.
Real looked on course to move top of La Liga thanks to Karim Benzema’s fine early header in an otherwise insipid display from Rafael Benitez’s men.
Keylor Navas produced a fine save from Antoine Griezmann’s first-half penalty, but the Costa Rican international was beaten for just the second time this season when Vietto bundled the ball home from close range.
And only a spectacular save from Navas prevented Jackson Martinez snatching all three points for Atletico in stoppage time.
Real maintain their two point lead over Atletico and move into second above Barcelona and Celta Vigo on goal difference, but remain a point behind leaders Villarreal.
“We have lost two points. We were in front and we made mistakes for the penalty and the goal,” said Benitez.
“We lacked precision on the counter-attack. We had eight chances to counter but weren’t accurate with the final or penultimate pass.”
However, Atletico boss Diego Simeone believed his side would have been deserving winners.
“In the second-half we had a lot more chances. We equalised and then their keeper made a great save at the end,” said the Argentine.
“The feeling is that we have lost two points and that we were very close to winning a game that on chances we deserved to win.”
Gareth Bale was left on the bench by Benitez as he made his return from a calf injury.
However, Real started the brighter and Jan Oblak had to scurry from his line to smother an effort from Benzema after just seven minutes.
Benzema scored to lead the La Liga goal-scoring charts
There was nothing the Slovenian could do, though, to prevent the Frenchman moving out on his own as La Liga’s top scorer with six goals as he powered home a header from Dani Carvajal’s inch-perfect cross from the right.
Angel Correa was the one bright spark for Atletico in the first 45 minutes and he nearly pulled the hosts level with an angled drive that flew just wide after a neat one-two with Oliver Torres.
Simeone’s men had a great chance to level on 21 minutes when Madrid captain Sergio Ramos chopped down Tiago inside the area.
Ramos was lucky to escape with just a yellow card but Navas pulled off his second penalty save of the season from Griezmann with a brilliant low stop to his left to maintain Madrid’s lead.
Simeone threw on Vietto, Martinez and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco in the search for an equaliser after the break as Atletico went on to dominate the second period.
Fernando Torres had the first opening of the half, but dragged his shot horribly wide from Correa’s fine through ball.
Bale was also introduced for the final 25 minutes but made little impact as Real sat back in the hope of holding onto their lead.
However, Benitez’s men were undone when Martinez got to the by-line and, despite Navas’s best efforts from Griezmann’s initial effort, the ball fell kindly for Vietto to prod home.
Martinez then had the chance to seal a famous comeback, but his fiercely struck effort from the edge of the area was brilliantly turned behind by Navas.
Earlier, Villarreal missed the chance to extend their lead at the top of the table as they were beaten 1-0 at Levante.
Villarreal were reduced to 10 men on 35 minutes when Bojan Jokic saw a straight red card for a high challenge on Ivan Lopez.
The visitors held out until seven minutes from time when Brazilian striker Deyverson converted Nabil El Ghilas’s cross to take Levante off the foot of the table.
The pressure on Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo was increased as his side blew a 1-0 lead to lose 3-1 at Athletic Bilbao.
And Real Betis moved up to eighth as goals in either half from Heiko Westermann and Ruben Castro handed them a 2-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.