Barcelona once again failed to capitalise on the latest Real Madrid slip with a 0-0 draw against Getafe on Sunday keeping them seven points behind the league leaders.
Real drew 1-1 with Real Mallorca on Saturday but neither Barcelona nor Villarreal, who lost 2-0 at Sevilla, could take advantage.
Barcelona outclassed Getafe at Camp Nou but could not find a way through hitting the post three times and spurning several other chances. "We hit the post a few times and luck was not with us tonight," said Barca striker Samuel Eto'o. "It is hard to take but football can be like that. We still have hope as there are opportuntities to win the league.
"The fans have the right to be angry but now is the time to pull together more than ever and we have to look forward to Wednesday's match," he added.
Villarreal are level on points with Barca but stay second, courtesy of their superior head-to-head record, despite seeing their nine-match unbeaten run come to an end with a 2-0 defeat at Sevilla.
"We have never been title contenders," said Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini. "Sevilla were superior to us over the 90 minutes and they were very good - although we were mediocre."
A 23rd goal of the season from Brazilian Luis Fabiano and a late Freddy Kanoute penalty downed Villarreal.
Barca coach Frank Rijkaard made two changes from the team that started the 3-2 defeat at Real Betis with Lilian Thuram and Eric Abidal making way for Sylvinho and Gaby Milito.
Ruben de la Red, being watched by a host of clubs, should have put Getafe ahead after six minutes but Victor Valdes turned his effort around the post.
From then on Barca seized control with Milito going close and Eto'o smashing an effort against the post which rebounded to safety. Substitute Giovani Dos Santos and Xavi Fernandez both hit the post after the interval as Getafe rode their luck.
Barca must now switch their attention to Wednesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Schalke where they hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
Getafe are also still in Europe and host Bayern Munich on Thursday in the the UEFA Cup quarter-final after a creditable 1-1 first leg draw in Germany.
Villarreal had been unbeaten since losing 3-1 to Real at the beginning of January but Sevilla, who were challenging for the title themselves at this stage last season, showed why they are so strong at home.
The win keeps Sevilla's Champions League hopes alive as they lie five points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid. "That was our best game at home all season against the most in-form team in the league," enthused Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez. "Now we have to go to Mallorca and win there."
Fabiano's 23rd goal of a fantastic season gave Sevilla the initiative and Kanoute wrapped up the game with a penalty in the closing stages.
Atletico crushed nine-man Almeria 6-3 to stay in pole position with Racing Santander falling three points behind after a 3-1 home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna. The capital side had put the pressure on Sevilla by blasting six past Almeria in a 6-3 thriller which had seven goals and two sendings off in an action-filled first half.
"It was a strange game and we will have to analyse what we did," said Atletico coach Javier Aguirre. "But the good thing is we got the three points and that our chasing rivals (Espanyol and Racing) didn't pick up points."
Espanyol lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao and a UEFA Cup spot now looks their best hope.
Valencia are relying on the Kings Cup final, against Getafe on 16 April 16, for a place in Europe after a 1-0 defeat by lowly Real Murcia left them languishing down in 13th place.