The capital outfit had been presented with the chance to move to the summit after Barcelona lost 3-2 at home to Valencia on Saturday, which was the Catalan outfit's first home defeat in the league since April 2012.
Real Madrid, however, missed the chance to leapfrog Barcelona into second after Carlo Ancelotti's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in a match that saw FIFA Ballon d'Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo handed his marching orders.
Back-to-back goalless draws between Levante and Rayo Vallecano and Getafe and Real Valladolid followed Barcelona's home defeat to Valencia on Saturday, before Malaga came from behind to beat rivals Sevilla 3-2 at La Rosaleda in a pulsating clash.
The battle for fourth was also affected on Sunday evening with Sociedad and Bilbao both failing to win their respective matches. That opened the door for Villarreal to continue their pursuit of a Champions League spot with a 3-1 victory over Osasuna on Monday.
Here, Sports Mole selects its 11 best performers following another exciting round of La Liga action.
Diego Lopez (Real Madrid)
Lopez's goal came under constant siege in the early stages of Madrid's 1-1 draw with Bilbao on Sunday, but the Spaniard was on hand to make a number of impressive stops. That was also the case in the latter stages after Ronaldo had been sent from the field. The goalkeeper's handling and distribution were also of the highest order at San Mames.
Alfred N'Diaye (Real Betis)
The 23-year-old only joined Betis on loan from Sunderland on the final evening of the transfer window, but was thrust straight into the starting XI in his side's 3-0 win over Espanyol. It was just about the perfect performance from the Senegalese, who was strong in the tackle and dominant in the air. He was a major contributor to just their third league win of the season.
Miranda (Atletico Madrid)
Another week of La Liga football, another defensive masterclass from Miranda. As has been the case for much of the season, the Brazilian did not put a foot wrong during Atletico's 4-0 win over Sociedad. Not only was the centre-back aerially dominant, but he was also prepared to bring the ball into midfield when the opportunity arrived.
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Ramos certainly has his critics, but it is difficult to argue with his recent performances. The Spaniard had the tricky Aritz Aduriz to mark during Madrid's 1-1 draw with Bilbao, but he dealt with the power of the forward. The centre-back was his usual calm self in possession, while he demonstrated his leadership qualities when Los Blancos came under pressure in the latter stages.
Jeremy Mathieu (Valencia)
Is the Frenchman the most improved defender in La Liga? Quite possibly. He was a key contributor to Valencia's 3-2 win over Barcelona on Saturday. Trusted with marking the likes of Lionel Messi, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro, the 30-year-old was in impressive form. When Barcelona decided to swing balls into the box, Mathieu was almost always first on the scene.
Sofiane Feghouli (Valencia)
Feghouli contributed two assists as Valencia overcame Barcelona 3-2 at the Camp Nou on Saturday. The 24-year-old has been used in a number of positions this season, but there is no question that his best role is breaking from midfield. It was a real box-to-box performance from the Algerian international, who is currently one of the in-form players in the league.
Diego (Atletico Madrid)
Diego could not have written the script better himself. On his Atletico Madrid homecoming, the Brazilian, who is on loan from Wolfsburg, netted the fourth in the 4-0 win over Sociedad. It was 1-0 when the midfielder entered, but his presence lifted the entire stadium. It was a masterstroke from coach Diego Simeone to secure Diego's services for at least the remainder of this season.
Malaga needed a big performance from their skipper this weekend, and they got one as Duda scored twice in the 3-2 win over Sevilla at La Rosaleda. Defeat would have left the home side perilously close to the bottom three, but the 33-year-old inspired his side to all three points. The Portuguese will be crucial for last season's Champions League quarter-finalists in the remainder of the campaign.
Pablo Piatti (Valencia)
Piatti might have been the smallest player on the pitch during Valencia's 3-2 success over Barcelona, but that did not stop the Argentine from scoring with a header. His goal alone does not earn him a spot in this particular team, rather his all-round performance. The 24-year-old was a constant menace in Catalonia, with his pace and movement worrying the home side throughout the contest.
Ruben Castro (Real Betis)
Would Betis be bottom of the table if Castro had been fit all season? The Spaniard has had his injury problems this season, but a total of 66 goals in 119 league games for Betis tells its own story. The 32-year-old was at the double this weekend as his brace secured all the points in a 2-0 victory over Espanyol. The victory was just Betis's third league success of the season.
Jeremy Perbet (Villarreal)
The Frenchman took his La Liga tally to seven goals on Monday evening with a brace in Villarreal's 3-1 win over Osasuna. The 29-year-old did not enter until late in the first period, but netted twice and could have had more if not for some good goalkeeping from Andres Fernandez. The Yellow Submarine have three strikers all enjoying strong campaigns.