PARIS, March 14, 2011 (AFP) - Barcelona dropped two vital points in the La Liga title race as they could only draw 1-1 with Sevilla in Sunday's late match.
Second-placed Real Madrid, who beat Hercules 2-0 on Saturday, are now just five points behind with the two sides going head-to-head next month at the Bernabeu.
Barcelona completely dominated the first half and took the lead on the half hour mark through Bojan Krkic who came on for the injured Pedro Rodriguez.
Andres Iniesta floated a pass to Diego Alves who found Bojan and he was able to walk the ball into the net.
After the break it was a different looking Sevilla who pressed forward and got their reward with Jesus Navas heading in an Alvaro Negredo cross.
Barcelona were on the back foot as Navas and Frederic Kanoute had good chances to score but late on the Catalan side rallied and could have won it when Iniesta hit the post.
Earlier, an injury time penalty from Diego Castro gave nine-man Sporting Gijon a surprise 1-1 draw against Villarreal.
The home side looked to have moved onto the shoulders of third-placed Valencia, who were beaten 4-0 by Zaragoza, but they conceded a goal following a controversial refereeing call.
Villarreal were far from their best and Sporting dominated possession for long spells but lacked the finesse in front of goal.
Sporting gifted the opening goal to Giuseppe Rossi with keeper Ivan Cuellar dropping a cross at the feet of the striker who just had to place the ball into an empty net.
Sporting were reduced to ten men when Jose Angel foolishly received a second yellow card for complaining to the referee and then Rafael Sastre was also given his marching order in the final minute for upending Rossi as last man.
It all looked to have gone against Sporting until deep in stoppage time when Gonzalo Rodriguez was adjudged to have fouled David Barral, and Castro coolly struck the ball home from 12 yards.
"I am not going to talk about the referee or give my opinion about the penalty," said Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido.
"This was a difficult game and it went wrong for us with a debatable decision which I am not going to judge. We should have been able to deal with the game better but the team did as well as they could."
Espanyol boosted their European hopes with a 2-0 win over 10-man Deportivo la Coruna.
The home side had lost six of their previous seven games before the visit of the Galician side, but after a tight opening spell the match turned in Espanyol's favour with the dismissal of Pablo Alvarez shortly before half-time.
Ivan Alonso, who had been brought on to add ammunition to the attack, had a shot saved from point blank range but broke the deadlock minutes later.
Deportivo never looked like finding an equaliser and Joan Verdu added a touch of quality to the game with a fine strike into the top corner from 20 yards.
Bottom side Malaga pulled off a surprise 2-0 win away to Real Sociedad with Sergio Duda, who returned after missing six games, sending them on their way.
Sociedad dominated possession of the ball after the break but it was Malaga who scored again through Jose Rondon.
Struggling Osasuna followed up their defeat over Malaga last weekend with a commanding 3-1 victory over Racing Santander. Kike Sola, Javad Nekounam and Fernando Soriano put them on the road to three more points with Markus Rosenberg netting a consolation.
An Ivan Ramis goal earnt Mallorca a draw against Levante, who went ahead through Juanlu Gomez, and brought to an end their four match winning run at home.