Kevin Gameiro came off the bench to score and create Atletico Madrid's goals as Diego Simeone's men maintained the pressure on LaLiga leaders Barcelona with a battling 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Barca won at Eibar on Saturday to build their cushion back up to 10 points after Atletico had reduced the deficit thanks to successive draws from the Catalan giants.
An out-of-form Athletic side had frustrated the hosts for large periods at the Wanda Metropolitano and seemingly looked set to hold Atletico to a goalless draw.
It was down to Gameiro to earn Atletico their fifth straight win in all competitions, the forward drilling a shot into the bottom corner after being set up by fellow Frenchman Antoine Griezmann.
Gameiro then set up Diego Costa to mark his latest return from injury with a goal, wrapping up the points with 11 minutes to go, beating Kepa Arrizabalaga at the goalkeeper's near post.
Athletic are now winless in six games and, after they failed to create a clear chance in the game, Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak recorded his 16th LaLiga clean sheet of the season, putting him top of the charts for Europe's top-five leagues.
Atleti blew Copenhagen away 4-1 in the Europa League on Thursday but took until the 14th minute to record the first effort of note, Jose Gimenez directing Griezmann's free-kick wide at full stretch.
The hosts should have had a penalty, however, Unai Nunez losing his footing and bringing down Costa, only for referee Jose Luis Gonzalez Gonzalez to wave away strong appeals.
Athletic failed to score in their last two LaLiga games and, shorn of the attacking threats posed by suspended duo Aritz Aduriz and Raul Garcia, they failed to record a shot on target in the first half, with Atleti having also failed to work Kepa Arrizabalaga.
22 - Atletico have had a clean sheet at half-time in 22 La Liga games this season, more than any other side in the top five European leagues. Fortress. pic.twitter.com/SfZlMu21PE— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 18, 2018
Costa went to ground again immediately after the restart but the referee decided a touch in the back from defender Nunez was not enough to send the striker crashing to the turf.
The Spain striker recorded the first shot on target of the match after 50 minutes, finding space in the box to volley Sime Vrsaljko's cross at goal, but Kepa saved easily to his left.
Atletico were gradually finding more space but Costa headed over, Kepa was not troubled by Angel Correa's ambitious 30-yarder and Griezmann fired wildly off-target.
Simeone turned to Gameiro to provide more spark and the striker scored within eight minutes of his introduction for the out-of-sorts Koke.
Atletico's speed of thought resulted in an overload on the right wing after Athletic stopped in expectation of winning a free-kick, with Griezmann timing and weighting the pass out to the unmarked Gameiro perfectly for his compatriot to take a touch and rifle a low shot across Kepa.
And with Athletic leaving too many gaps at the back, Gameiro slipped Costa through on goal to wrongfoot Kepa and ensure Atletico keep LaLiga's title race very much alive.
Key Opta stats:
- Griezmann has assisted the last three Gameiro's goals in LaLiga.
- Since his return to Atletico, Diego Costa has been involved in six goals in his eight games in all competitions (four goals and two assists).
- Atletico have kept clean sheets in 16 games in LaLiga this season, more than any other team in the top 5 European Leagues (equal to Juventus).
- Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in their last 10 LaLiga games against Athletic Club (W8 D2), their longest ever run without defeat against them in the top flight.
- Diego Simeone has won 13 games as a manager against Athletic in all competitions, more than he has against any other opponent as Atletico's boss.
|Ryder Cup has special place in Pep Guardiola´s heart, says Fleetwood|
|Mbappe ready to take over from Messi and Ronaldo, says Trezeguet|
|Molinari: Ryder Cup pressure far outweighs any major|
|Koepka heads PGA Tour´s Player of the Year nominations|
|Lampard: Mourinho still a great manager|
|United States and Europe reveal Ryder Cup practice groupings|
|Bulldogs´ fine for ´Mad Monday´ antics halved|
|Bennett to leave Broncos after 2019 NRL campaign|
|American League postseason picture becomes clear|
|Steelers edge Buccaneers for first win|
|Gatland wants Webb available for World Cup|
|Modric: Ronaldo, Messi out of this world but my season deserved recognition|
|Love says Cavs ´will surprise a lot of people´|
|George believes Thunder can compete for championship this season|
|Messi is the greatest ever – Eto´o|
|Messi to miss Argentina´s upcoming friendlies|
|Dolphins say Hayes tore ACL attempting to avoid roughing-the-passer penalty|
|Modric deserved FIFA Best award – Ramos|
|Thibodeau open to potential Butler trade|
|Modric wanted Ronaldo, Messi at awards ceremony|
|Brewers´ Yelich active after elbow hit|
|Anthony on coming off Rockets´ bench: Whatever I have to do to help this team win|
|Raiders coach Gruden says Mack trade was hard on players|
|Bale lauds ´unbelievable´ Modric after FIFA Best triumph|
|Ronaldo, Messi lacked respect with FIFA Best awards snub - Capello|
|New Zealand the benchmark but England can win World Cup - Mitchell|
|FIFA Best Award a dream come true for Modric|
|Lakers a long way from Warriors, warns LeBron|
|Milner pokes fun at Salah´s Puskas Award win|
|Josh Rosen to replace Sam Bradford as Cardinals starting quarterback|
|Kaymer: Home-course advantage crucial to Europe hopes|
|Marta and Pedros win FIFA Best awards|
|I want to be in Toronto - Kawhi Leonard focused on Raptors, not future|
|Messi and Ronaldo lead FIFPro World XI as Salah and Neymar miss out|
|Knicks´ Kristaps Porzingis ´itchy´ to return but won´t commit to 2018-19 season|
|Modric beats Ronaldo and Salah to FIFA Best prize|
|49ers confirm ACL tear for QB Garoppolo|
|Salah beats Bale and Ronaldo to Puskas Award|
|Deschamps wins FIFA Best Men´s Coach award|
|Law to leave Windies for Middlesex role|
|Sunderland terminate Ndong´s contract|
|Spalletti warns rejuvenated Inter against complacency|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Figo in town as USA arrive in style|
|Browns name Baker Mayfield starting QB|
|Chelsea need to be more versatile, warns Giroud|
|Paris Saint-Germain FFP case referred by UEFA back to CFCB Investigatory Chamber|
|Busy Bertens ready for bed, Muguruza gains Wimbledon revenge|
|Hart ready if England come calling - Dyche|
|Ryder Cup 2018: An honour and a burden - the unique challenge of captaincy|
|Hibino beats Bouchard again at the Tashkent Open|
|Falcons lose Ricardo Allen for season|
|Mbappe three-match ban stands following appeal|
|Tomic wins first Tour-level match since Wimbledon in Chengdu|
|Ryder Cup diary: Scoreboard shocker, captains tight-lipped|
|Mourinho will spawn lots of managers - Lampard|
|Furyk outlines Woods´ Ryder Cup motivation|
|Tiger doesn´t scare Team Europe - Bjorn|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Team USA profile|
|Woods winning ´incredibly special for golf´, says Poulter|
|Grealish commits to Aston Villa with five-year deal|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Four reasons why Team USA will win|
|Herrera ready for return - Mourinho|
|Bellew determined to prove doubters wrong against Usyk|
|Lewandowski and Boateng´s professionalism impresses Kovac|
|WATCH: Sheepish Murray comically drops commemorative plate in China|
|Cech: Arsenal have forgotten how to win Premier League titles|
|Lemar must adapt to Atleti style, says Simeone|
|Toulon to appeal suspended points penalty|
|AFE rejects Miami plan for Girona-Barca|
|Messi and Ronaldo to decide world´s best young player|