Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde felt Sunday's 2-0 win at Villarreal could prove vital to their LaLiga title hopes.
The Catalans went into the game at the Estadio de la Ceramica on the back of consecutive draws in the top flight and having seen Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid all claim three points this weekend.
Sixth-place Villarreal proved to be stubborn opponents but Barca eventually wore them down after Raba's red card in the second half, with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi getting the goals to restore the visitors' five-point lead at the top.
And Valverde believes it was a very important time to return to winning ways, with games against Deportivo La Coruna and Real Madrid to come before the end of the year.
"It was a crucial and difficult game," he said, as quoted by Mundo Deportivo. "We had to face a great team on a pitch where it's difficult to get points.
"They gave us a tough game, with problems in circulating the ball and danger on the counter-attack.
"We've kept up the winning run. We knew our rivals had won but we're always relying on ourselves. Regardless of rivals having won, before a game, you have to win. You prepare to win and that's that.
49 - Lionel Messi has scored more goals than any other player from the top five European leagues in 2017 (all competitions). Gold. pic.twitter.com/g34bwa5YH1— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 10, 2017
"If your rivals win, you have more pressure and you deal with that. After drawing at home [against Celta Vigo], we wanted to refocus with a victory."
Valverde praised the impact of full-back Jordi Alba, who was once more a dangerous attacking outlet for Barca and linked superbly with Messi throughout.
"Alba is one of our weapons," he said. "Villarreal close down a lot and they stopped the advance of our full-backs.
"In the second half, the runs of Jordi Alba were key. He has a really good understanding with Messi and these connections always appear. It's insurance for the team."
Raba received a straight red card for a lunge on Sergio Busquets near the Barca penalty area, a decision that was argued against furiously by the Villarreal players, but Valverde understood why he was sent off.
"I haven't seen it on TV. I have a feeling that the one who protested the least was the player himself," he said.
"It's a hard tackle and the referee saw it that way."
|River Plate 2 Al Ain 2 (aet, 4-5 on penalties): Perez misses decisive spot kick|
|De Bruyne and Aguero back for City, surprise debut for Garcia|
|Uncapped Varun ´panicked a little´ after huge IPL deal|
|Replays scrapped for FA Cup fifth round|
|Pochettino readies big guns for Gunners|
|Ex-Wasps star Wade struggling with NFL transition|
|BCCI rejects ´baseless´ claims over Kohli-Paine ´banter´|
|Ibrahimovic re-signs with LA Galaxy for 2019|
|Mourinho sacked: Solari not worried for Real Madrid job|
|Mourinho sacked: 895 days and more than £700,000 in five-star luxury|
|ES Tunis 1 Guadalajara 1 (6-5 on penalties): Dhaouadi holds nerve to settle ill-tempered affair|
|Murphy lands permanent Tigers role|
|Mourinho sacked: Real Madrid´s Marcelo lauds ´great coach´ after United exit|
|Unadkat, Varun the top buys at IPL auction|
|Emery prepared to give youth a chance in north London derby|
|Tottenham extend Vertonghen contract until 2020|
|Panthers safety Reid receives seventh random drug test of 2018|
|Kovac relishing Klopp challenge in Champions League|
|Bancroft to return, teenager Lamichhane to fly the flag for Nepal in Big Bash|
|Liverpool still have plenty of work to do - Klopp|
|Messi ´never imagined´ his success after winning record fifth Golden Shoe|
|WATCH: Timberwolves´ Gibson tries to block shot with his trainer|
|Mourinho sacked: Klopp praises departed Manchester United boss|
|Mourinho sacked: Jose the best Manchester United manager since Ferguson - Gerrard|
|Mourinho sacked: Ferdinand calls for ´fresh ideas´ at Man United|
|Mourinho sacked: The mystique has gone as United spell ends in divorce|
|´He´s an interest not only for us but for many´ - Zola praises rumoured Chelsea target Wilson|
|Mourinho sacked: Pochettino focused on Spurs amid Manchester United rumours|
|Mendis eyes double-century for departing Samaraweera|
|Mourinho sacked: Zola expects Jose to be in another job ´soon´|
|Mourinho sacked: Five reasons it went wrong at Manchester United|
|Mourinho sacked: Jose´s Manchester United record in Opta stats|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba, Ronaldo and Jose´s biggest bust-ups|
|Mourinho sacked: Blanc, Solskjaer - the men who could steady the United ship short-term|
|Mourinho sacked: The football world reacts|
|Mourinho sacked: What former United stars said after Liverpool loss|
|Mourinho sacked: Where next for the axed Manchester United boss?|
|UEFA to investigate alleged racist incidents at Vidi-Chelsea|
|Australia unchanged for rest of India series|
|Mourinho sacked: Pogba´s tweet a dig at departing Man United boss?|
|Newton left frustrated by shoulder injury as Panthers lose again|
|Mourinho sacked: Pochettino & Zidane lead potential Man Utd replacements|
|Mourinho sacked: Neville urges Man United to go for Pochettino|
|Boylen pleased to see Bulls react to red rag in Thunder fracas|
|Icardi and Inter ´very far´ apart in contract negotiations|
|Mourinho leaves Manchester United|
|Curry humbled by latest milestone|
|Robertson: ´Unbelievable´ Alisson will bounce back from error|
|Curry scores 15,000th regular-season point in Warriors win|
|Rams star Gurley ´day-to-day´ with knee inflammation|
|Saints poised to clinch NFC top seed after topping Panthers|
|Mathews, Mendis centuries frustrate New Zealand|
|Kohli: Relentless Australia deserved victory|
|Relief for Paine and Australia after ending Test drought|
|Australia level series with dominant win over India|
|Libertadores holders River learn group as CONMEBOL boss calls for end to violence|
|Chargers RB Gordon planning to return against Ravens|
|Kobe Bryant visit motivated Browns´ Jabrill Peppers|
|De Bruyne: Fatigue not behind injury woes|
|´That´s not my concern´ - Broncos coach Joseph on job security|
|Lowry on Leonard´s free agency: I just want him to be happy|
|Yankees give Sabathia $500K bonus despite ejection|
|Ronaldo confirmed Juventus interest in January – Mendes|
|Lakers guard Rondo to begin rehab stint in G League|
|Saiz to leave Leeds United for Getafe|
|Whyte thinks Joshua rematch is ´only a matter of time´|
|Greenwood stars as Man United end Chelsea´s FA Youth Cup dominance|
|Panthers tight end Olsen expects ´full recovery´ after surgery|
|Derby County 0 Nottingham Forest 0: Lampard´s men fourth after tense stalemate|
|Clermont lose former All Black Toeava for six months|