Lionel Messi and Neymar started the game on the bench and even when both emerged in the second half, neither were able to give their side an attacking edge against a highly-disciplined Atletico outfit, though Messi forced one of few saves from Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with ten minutes remaining.
Diego Simeone's men showed marginally more ambition than their visitors, their best chances falling to Diego Costa, who never gave Victor Valdes too much trouble, and Arda Turan, who should have made the Barça stopper work harder when presented with a rare shot on goal in the second half.
There were a couple of nervy moments for the hosts in injury time as Barça circled the area, but the Atleti defence held on.
Athletic thrash Almeria, Celta Vigo edge Valencia
Athletic Bilbao tightened their grip on fourth place in the Primera Division with a resounding 6-1 victory at home to Almeria.
Midfielder Mikel Rico opened the scoring with just six minutes played and Ander Herrera doubled the lead just four minutes later.
Aymeric Laporte made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark, but Helder Barbosa gave Francisco Javier Rodriguez's side faint hope by scoring before half-time.
However, further goals from Aritz Aduriz put the hosts further ahead and a double from substitute Ibai Gomez completed the rout.
Athletic had failed to score in either of their opening two games of 2014, 1-0 defeats at Real Sociedad and Real Betis, but needed just six minutes to find the net against Almeria.
Rico released Aduriz down the left hand side of the area and the striker pulled a pass back across the area for the midfielder to meet and drill a left-footed shot into the top corner.
Athletic scored again just three minutes later.
Two goals by Brazilian striker Charles earned Celta Vigo a valuable 2-1 win against Valencia in their bid to avoid relegation from the Primera Division.
Valencia had been rejuvenated under coach Juan Antonio Pizzi since he took over at the end of 2013 and pushed towards European qualification, while their opponents were looking at the other end of the table.
But despite going behind to a Dani Parejo goal after 23 minutes they did not lose heart, Charles netting twice (50 and 78) to earn them three important points.
Elche were denied a first Primera Division win since November as Daniel Carrico's 89th-minute header rescued a 1-1 draw for Sevilla.
Cristian Herrera's 82nd-minute effort had looked set to earn the struggling hosts a crucial three points, but their hopes of moving four points clear of the bottom three were dashed.
Instead they gained a two-point cushion over the drop zone, the draw no more than they deserved from a match in which they frustrated European hopefuls Sevilla for long periods.
The visitors' unbeaten run in the league stretches back to early November, but two dropped points on Sunday saw them miss the chance to move above Villarreal and into seventh, at least temporarily.