Atletico Madrid surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona when they were held 0-0 at home by 10-man Sevilla on Sunday before Real Madrid lost ground after an entertaining 1-1 stalemate at Real Betis.
Alvaro Cejudo conjured a spectacular volley Real's new coach Zinedine Zidane would have been proud of to put Betis ahead in the seventh minute and the Seville-based side held the 10-times European champions at bay until Karim Benzema levelled 19 minutes from time.
Real, in Zidane's first game away from home since he took over from the sacked Rafa Benitez and missing the injured Gareth Bale, laid siege to the home goal in a frantic finale but could not find a winner.
Valencia's struggles continued with a tepid 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna, leaving coach Gary Neville without a La Liga win in seven attempts since taking over last month.
Atletico and Barca each have 48 points with just over half the season played but the champions, who have a game in hand and host Atletico next weekend, are ahead on goal difference. Real are four points adrift of the leaders in third
Atletico poured forward in search of a winner but the Europa League holders' defence held firm, goalkeeper Sergio Rico pulling off a fine save to block a powerful Gabi strike eight minutes from time.