Francisco “Piti” Medina scored a double on Sunday as Rayo Vallecano won 3-2 at Levante to stay in the hunt for a Europa League berth.
Also, Deportivo La Coruna beat visiting Espanyol 2-0 in a tense match featuring contrasting emotions.
Deportivo are provisionally out of the relegation zone, while Real Zaragoza fell into the drop zone after conceding two late goals to fall 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao.
Piti opened the scoring in the 20th minute by firing in a rebound. Robert Acquafresca levelled for Levante in the 52nd. Franco Vazquez finished off a Rayo counterattack four minutes later, and Piti scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season from the penalty spot in the 72nd to make it 3-1.
Levante midfielder Vicente Iborra pulled one back in the 86th to add drama to the final minutes, but Rayo held on for victory.
“Piti is spectacular. Every time he touches the ball he creates danger,” said Rayo coach Paco Jemez, adding that his forward has scored more goals than Real Madrid stars Karim Benzema (10) and Gonzalo Higuain (14).
Rayo’s first win in six rounds lifted them into eighth place in the Spanish league, which currently earns a spot in the Europa League with Malaga banned from UEFA competition next season.
“We continue fighting for something that would be historic for this club,” Jemez said.
Espanyol made a good start at Deportivo with Christian Stuani heading Sergio Garcia’s cross onto the bar. But Deportivo soaked up the pressure before going ahead five minutes after halftime when Bruno Gama struck with a curling strike from the edge of the area, sending coach Fernando Vazquez charging down the sideline with fists raised to celebrate.
Substitute Nelson Oliveira sealed the much-needed win in stoppage time.
But he then provoked the ire of the Riazor Stadium crowd by holding his finger to his lips in an apparent response to previous criticism he had received from the home fans. After gesturing for the stands to be quiet, the young Portugal striker shook off his teammate’s attempts to hug him in celebration of the goal.
Zaragoza bossed the match at La Romareda Stadium and went ahead thanks to Helder Postiga’s well-placed header in the 14th.
But Bilbao finally came alive when Fernando Llorente poked in a loose ball in the 80th, and Oscar de Marcos dribbled by his marker on the end line before crossing for Ibai Gomez to score the stoppage-time winner with a deft back-heeled flick.
After a disappointing season, Bilbao’s comeback victory secured their place in the top flight with two rounds to go.