Goals by Jeremy Toulalan and Alarcon Isco guided Malaga to a 2-1 victory over Villarreal to move up to fifth in the Primera Division on Monday.
Toulalan was both hero and villain, scoring the opener but also being sent off for two yellow cards, but tonight's result also saw Villarreal's improved form come to an end with Marco Ruben's strike mere consolation.
Malaga made a dream start, going ahead in the fourth minute thanks to a close-range header by Toulalan. Villarreal replied within 12 minutes, Ruben sending a right-footed shot into the top-left corner of the goal.
Both sides continued to attack, Hernan Perez sending in a header for the visitors before Isco fired in a 20-yard shot which was comfortably held by Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
However, there were few clear-cut chances until the hosts regained the lead five minutes before half-time. Jose Salomon Rondon drilled in a left-footed shot which was parried with Isco on hand to pounce on the ball and slot home into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.
Santi Cazorla fired in a 20-yard shot for Malaga while Ruben sent in a header which was held by goalkeeper Caballero Willy, but there were few clear opportunities.
Villarreal's bid to equalise appeared to be aided when the hosts were reduced to 10 men after Toulalan was sent off following his second yellow card, a foul on Perez, and from the resulting free-kick Borja Valero hit the bar with a 20-yard shot.
But the visitors failed to find an equaliser before the final whistle as their three-match unbeaten league run came to an end.