Atletico Madrid dropped points for the fourth time in five LaLiga matches as they drew 2-2 at fellow Champions League hopefuls Valencia.
Diego Simeone's men could have moved level on 42 points with third-placed Getafe with victory but, despite taking the lead twice, they were pegged back, meaning Sevilla and Real Sociedad could overtake them this weekend.
Although quality was lacking, the first half certainly entertained and Atletico just about edged it at the interval, with Marcos Llorente and Thomas Partey scoring either side of Gabriel Paulista's equaliser.
Valencia eventually became the superior force in the second half after Geoffrey Kondogbia's 59th-minute goal tied the score, but they failed to make the most of their late dominance as Kevin Gameiro spurned a glorious chance to down his former employers.
The early proceedings were by no means thrilling but Atletico made the most of a rare goal-scoring opportunity, as Angel Correa's shot struck Gabriel and Llorente was on hand to prod past Jaume Domenech.
Valencia levelled with five minutes of the first half to play – Gabriel heading in from close range after Maxi Gomez's delivery.
Atletico still went into the break ahead, though, thanks to Thomas' 20-yard strike, the midfielder drilling into the bottom-left corner after Valencia allowed him to charge forward.
Both sides initially struggled to control a scrappy affair after the break, but Valencia restored parity for a second time just before the hour – Kondogbia converting from close range after Dani Parejo's free-kick delivery.
Former Atletico striker Gameiro was introduced from the bench and should have put the hosts in front 16 minutes from time, but he blazed over from eight yards out and Gomez followed suit from a little further out soon after as Atletico held on to a commendable point.
1 - Thomas Partey has scored the first @Atleti's goal from outside box in #LaLigaSantander this season. Only Watford & Crystal Palace are the only teams to have failed to score it in the Top 5 European Leagues. Lash@LaLigaEN #ValenciaAtleti #AtleticoMadrid pic.twitter.com/AkO78QTiet— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 14, 2020
What does it mean? Atletico hand La Real and Sevilla the initiative
The only reason Atletico are still in the top four is because their poor recent form has been matched by their top-four rivals, with La Real, Sevilla and Valencia all wildly erratic over the past few weeks.
But this weekend, Sevilla host rock-bottom Espanyol and La Real face another of the strugglers in Eibar. Both will fancy their chances of wins that will see them leapfrog Atletico once again.
Partey time on Valentine's Day
It seemed clear that if Atletico were to get a late win, Thomas would have been involved in some way. The midfielder impressed with some fierce bursts through the middle, scored a fine goal and only narrowly missed the target with three decent long-range efforts.
Correa a bystander
Through Atletico's difficult patch, Correa has been arguably the only player to enhance his reputation. However, on Friday he was utterly anonymous bar his shot that was fortuitously deflected to Llorente for the opener. He touched the ball just 16 times – the fewest of all the Atletico players except their substitutes – and failed to create a single chance.
Both sides turn their attention back to the Champions League next week, with Valencia facing Atalanta in San Siro on Wednesday and Atletico hosting defending champions Liverpool the day before.