|Racing's Christian Stuani (L) comforts teammate Francisco Perez (R) as their team edges towards relegation [AFP]
Athletic Bilbao pushed last-place Racing Santander toward near-certain relegation from the Spanish league on Sunday with a 1-0 away win through an early goal from Gaizka Toquero.
The Basque striker ran onto Ander Herrera's through pass and scored with a shot inside the far post to give Bilbao the victory, lifting them into sixth place and the last Europa League spot.
Racing remained winless in their last 16 games to sit 11 points from safety with four games to play.
"The players are aware of the situation, but we have to maintain our honour and keep working"
Racing coach Alvaro Cervera
"The players are aware of the situation, but we have to maintain our honour and keep working,'' Racing coach Alvaro Cervera said.
Bilbao host Sporting Lisbon on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League semifinal looking to overturn their 2-1 loss in the Portuguese capital last week.
In the late kick-off, third-placed Valencia thrashed Real Betis 4-0, moving four points clear of Malaga before the Andalusian side's game at Osasuna on Monday.
Jonas tapped in Roberto Soldado's headed pass after some nifty interplay with the striker for the sixth-minute opener.
Betis played a man down from the 57th after Jose Dorado was shown a straight red card for fouling Sofiane Feghouli when he only had the goalkeeper to beat.
Feghouli secured the points in the six minutes later when he raced into the area and toed home Sergio Canales swerving cross before Soldado and Pablo Piatti capped the triumph late on.
Betis' Jorge Molina was sent off with a red card before the final whistle for making comments to the referee.
"It was an important win, for the time being we have put some distance between us and Malaga,'' said Canales.
In the Spanish capital, Arda Turan scored a brace in three second-half minutes to help Atletico Madrid brush past Espanyol 3-1 and stay even on points with Bilbao.
| Valencia's Brazilian midfielder Jonas (R) celebrates his goal with forward Roberto Soldado [AFP]
Atletico defender Diego Godin opened the scoring nine minutes in with a header before Vila Didac levelled for the visitors at Vicente Calderon stadium 10 minutes later from a pass by Sergio Garcia.
Turan scored with a spectacular airborne volley to rip Juanfran Torres' cross into the corner of the net to restore Atletico's advantage in the 59th.
The Turkey midfielder quickly put the result beyond doubt when he latched onto a lobbed pass, cut back to shake off a pair of defenders, and sent his low strike off the post and over the goalline.
At Anoeta stadium, Carlos Vela's acrobatic late goal salvaged a 1-1 home draw for Real Sociedad against Villarreal.
The Mexico forward whipped in a bicycle kick to cancel out Marcos Senna's opener four minutes from the finish. It was Vela's 11th league goal this season.
The draw left Villarreal six points above the relegation zone.
"We were the better team for 80 minutes,'' said Villarreal coach Miguel Angel Lotina.
"We have to keep playing like this to lock up our place in the top flight for next season as soon as possible.''
Also, Granada moved eight points clear of the drop after a 1-0 win over the visiting Getafe thanks to Franco Jara's early goal set up by Carlos Martins on a counterattack.
Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 on Saturday to close in on their first league title in four seasons, moving seven points clear of their fierce rival.