Frederic Kanoute's 13th, 14th and 15th goals of the season helped Sevilla defeat Valladolid 4-1 and stretch their unbeaten Spanish league run to six matches.
|Kanoute finds the keeper [AFP]
Luis Fabiano also netted for Sevilla at Ramon Sanchez de Pizjuan Stadium, with Henok Goitom replying for visiting Valladolid with his ninth goal of the campaign.
Third-place Sevilla, who have 54 points from 28 games, stayed six points clear of fourth-place Villarreal, who beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 courtesy of second-half goals by Santi Cazorla and Matias Fernandez.
On Sunday, leaders Barcelona, who have 66 points, welcome the season's surprise package Malaga.
Second-place Real Madrid, with 60, entertain Almeria.
Valladolid, who arrived on the back of three straight wins, fell behind in the eighth minute when Kanoute used his left foot to sweep midfielder Ndri Romaric's pass into his path, enabling him to rifle home with his right foot.
Goitom levelled in the 22nd with a downward header from Fabian Canobbio's floated free kick which evaded advancing Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.
Kanoute restored Sevilla's lead 21 minutes later by swivelling to volley home Jesus Navas's low cross from the right.
Striker Luis Fabiano added Sevilla's third goal in the 57th by breaking Valladolid's offside trap to receive Adriano Correia's pass and then evading goalkeeper Justo Villar.
Kanoute completed his hat trick in the 70th with a powerful header from an outswinging cross from the left by defender Fernando Navarro, taking the Mali striker's tally to 10 goals in seven games.
Villarreal, who were paired with Arsenal in Friday's draw for the Champions League quarterfinals, were well-placed for another appearance in Europe's top club competition next season.
Villarreal in form
Villarreal dominated the first half at El Madrigal Stadium although goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who received a first call-up to the Spain squad on Friday, was forced to make a diving save from Bilbao midfielder Igor Gabilondo in the 14th minute.
Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi, who was at the heart of most of his team's attacks, spurned a chance for his 13th goal of the season in the 54th when he lobbed the ball wide with Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz stranded.
However, Spain midfielder Cazorla gave Iraizoz no chance with a fierce drive from the right of the goal in the 68th following Rossi's incisive run and pass.
Two minutes after the goal, Villarreal substitute Joseba Llorente angled his shot narrowly wide after more good work by Rossi.
Lopez was again called into action in the 77th when he tipped Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente's shot over the bar, moments before Rossi wasted another clear chance by blazing wide with only Iraizoz to beat.
Bilbao's hopes of drawing level were hit by the 79th-minute ejection of midfielder Markel Susaeta after he received his second yellow card for a high tackle.
Fernandez, who had replaced Ariel Ibagaza 10 minutes earlier, feinted then avoided a diving challenge before firing home in injury time to ensure his team's tally of 16 points from their past six home games.
Bilbao's defeat at Villarreal continued their recent league slump despite reaching the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 24 years.
The Basque team have taken just two points from the past seven league games and have a total of 31, only five points clear of the relegation zone, ahead of Sunday's matches.