Antoine Griezmann pulled the strings for Atletico Madrid as they shredded Ruben Baraja's helpless Valencia 3-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.
The French forward opened the scoring for the hosts at the Metropolitano and continued his own superb form with another fine display at the heart of Diego Simeone's side.
Yannick Carrasco doubled Atletico's lead early in the second half and Thomas Lemar sealed the win, with the Rojiblancos, third, moving six points clear of fourth-placed Real Sociedad, having played a game more.
The defeat leaves the troubled Los Che 17th, level on 26 points with Getafe, 18th, who host Sevilla on Sunday.
Atletico recorded a fifth win in six LaLiga games and tightened their hold on third place with a confident display, the kind they could not find in the first half of the campaign.
Memphis Depay missed two good chances for Atletico early on before Griezmann broke the deadlock after 23 minutes.
Marcos Llorente burst forward and fed the striker, and while there was a touch of luck about his first touch, which appeared to bounce off his foot and set the ball up nicely, the second was a neat stroked finish for his ninth league goal of the season.
Valencia thought they had responded through Hugo Duro but his strike was ruled out by VAR for a foul at the other end of the pitch by Dimitri Foulquier.
The first half was intense and fairly even, but Atletico strolled to victory in the second after Carrasco tucked home from close range soon after the break.
Griezmann threaded a fine pass through for Alvaro Morata, who left Valencia defender Eray Comert in the dust and crossed for Lemar to head home.
Samuel Lino hit the post for the visitors late on but they could not even manage a consolation strike on another deeply worrying away day for Baraja's side, who have struggled badly on the road.
Earlier Rayo Vallecano were held to a 2-2 draw by Girona after missing a penalty which Oscar Trejo attempted to pass to Isi Palazon.
Trejo saw a first spot-kick saved by Paulo Gazzaniga, but was allowed to take it again for encroachment by Girona.
On his second attempt he laid the ball off to the onrushing Palazon, who fired over.
Oscar Trejo et Isi Palazon nous ont fait une version améliorée du penalty d’Henry et Pires. C’est bête, car ça aurait pu leur donner la victoire contre Girona.pic.twitter.com/74VQfxYEwK— Feuille de Match (@fdematch) March 18, 2023
In 2016 Barcelona successfully executed the move in LaLiga, with Lionel Messi passing a penalty to Luis Suarez, who scored against Celta Vigo.
Trejo and Palazon's miss brought back memories of Arsenal attempting the same move against Manchester City in the Premier League in 2005, when Robert Pires attempted to pass to Thierry Henry but bungled the move.
No club in the big five European leagues has more misses from the spot than Rayo this season, with German side Union Berlin level on four.
Palazon had opened the scoring for Rayo in spectacular fashion, cutting in from the right and sending a rocket into the top left corner.
Girona levelled through Viktor Tsygankov but Rayo took the lead again when Trejo finished well.
Rayo should have extended their lead from the spot when Arnau Martinez felled Alvaro Garcia, but both their goalscorers combined for their disastrous passed attempt.
Ukrainian striker Tsygankov levelled the game when he tucked home from Javi Hernandez's cross.
The draw leaves Rayo provisionally eighth while Girona sit 12th.
Celta Vigo won 3-1 at Espanyol with talented midfielder Gabri Veiga scoring a fine goal to continue his good form.
Almeria rescued a 1-1 draw against Cadiz in a relegation scrap when Gonzalo Melero netted a stoppage-time penalty to cancel out Roger Marti's opener.
Almeria stay 19th, while Cadiz, 14th, are two points above the drop zone.