Elche captain Fidel missed a stoppage-time penalty as Atletico Madrid picked up a narrow 1-0 win to tighten their grip on top spot in La Liga ahead of next week's huge showdown with Barcelona.
Diego Simeone's side lost 2-1 to Athletic Bilbao last weekend and were fortunate to avoid another slip-up against relegation-threatened Elche in Sunday's (AEST) contest at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
Marcos Llorente scored what proved to be the all important goal for Atleti with his 12th league strike of the campaign in the 23rd minute after Luis Suarez had one chalked off for a marginal offside.
However, Elche wasted a glorious chance to snatch a share of the spoils in the 91st minute as Fidel fired a penalty against the post, meaning Atletico move five points clear of Real Madrid and Barca, who both have a game in hand to play.
Suarez fired wide of the target with just Paulo Gazzaniga to beat early on and then had a goal disallowed by the VAR for an offside infringement after being teed up by Llorente.
But there was no denying Llorente five minutes later as his shot from 12 yards deflected heavily off the arm of Dani Calvo and away from Gazzaniga for the breakthrough goal.
Atleti were given a penalty late in the first half for a handball against Diego Gonzalez, but the VAR intervened as Angel Correa's shot hit the defender's body before striking his arm.
It was proving to be a frustrating day for Suarez as he was once again undone by the offside flag when latching on to Correa's through-ball and converting at the second attempt.
Elche would have moved out of the bottom three with a point and had a couple of great chances to do exactly that in a tense finale.
Substitute Antonio Barragan volleyed over from close range late on and then Fidel was denied by the frame of the goal from a penalty awarded for Llorente's handball in the dying embers, much to the relief of Simeone.