Madrid: Villarreal registered their seventh consecutive win in all competitions to move above Sevilla on goal difference into fifth in La Liga thanks to a 3-0 victory over Deportivo la Coruna on Sunday.
Jonathan dos Santos got the hosts off to the perfect start when the on-loan Barcelona midfielder slammed home his first goal for the club.
Argentine striker Luciano Vietto then added to his fine debut season in Spain with two simple finishes five minutes apart midway through the second-half to make the game safe before the hosts ended with 10 men when substitute Tomas Pina was sent-off.
Marcelino`s men shot themselves back into contention for a return to the Champions League by inflicting Atletico Madrid`s first defeat at the Vicente Calderon for 19 months last weekend and were in no mood to lose any ground in the battle for the top four as they flew out of the blocks.
They were rewarded with the opening goal after just 10 minutes when Fabricio could only parry Denis Cheryshev`s low effort into the path of Dos Santos who gratefully steered the ball into an empty net.
The Deportivo `keeper redeemed himself with fine saves from Cheryshev, Vietto and Ikechukwu Uche to keep the visitors in the game at half-time.
But despite an improved start to the second period they were hit again on the counter-attack for the crucial second goal 22 minutes from time when Victor Ruiz squared for Vietto to tap home.
Five minutes later it was 3-0 in similar fashion as this time Cheryshev rolled the ball across the area for Vietto to slot home his 12th goal of the season.
Villarreal`s day was somewhat soured as Pina only lasted four minutes before being shown a straight red card for a lunge on Alex Bergantinos, but Deportivo couldn`t manage a consolation, and they remain just a point outside the relegation zone.
On Saturday, Luis Suarez scored his first La Liga goal and Lionel Messi netted twice as Barcelona moved to within a point of leaders Real Madrid with a 5-0 thrashing of Cordoba.
Victory moves Barca six points clear of champions Atletico Madrid, who visit Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday, but Real Madrid will end the year on top despite having played a game less due to their participation in the Club World Cup this weekend.
Real host Sevilla in their last game of the year on Wednesday.