Madrid, Spain (SportsNetwork.com) - Diego Costa's 77th-minute penalty kick helped Atletico Madrid sneak past a tough Levante side, 3-2, at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.
The visitors took a surprising lead inside two minutes through Andreas Ivanschitz, while Pedro Rios equalized in the 56th minute for Levante to make it 2-2 after goals from Diego Godin and Costa for the home side.
However, Costa converted from the penalty spot 13 minutes from time, lifting Atletico three points clear of Barcelona at the top of the league with Barca set to face Getafe on Sunday.
The match was just over one minute old when Ivanschitz knifed through the center of Atletico's defense and scored after receiving a pass from Nikos Karabelas.
But the hosts rebounded from that surprise goal to level the contest on the half-hour mark with Godin turning a header past goalkeeper Keylor Navas from Juanfran's right-wing cross.
Atletico seized the lead early in the second half when Costa found himself unmarked at the back post, allowing him to volley home from six yards after being spotted by Gabi's free kick.
Rios responded for Levante with a nice individual effort that saw him steal the ball from Koke in midfield and then embark on a lengthy run to the edge of the penalty area, where he beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Once more, Atletico answered the bell and Gabi drew a foul on Levante's Ruben Garcia inside the penalty area. Costa stepped forward and hammered his spot kick inside the right post, giving him a league-leading 19 goals and Atletico a three-point advantage at the summit.
Sevilla moved to within two points of Villarreal on Saturday after downing the Yellow Submarine, 2-1, behind goals from Cala and Carlos Bacca, while Real Sociedad jumped into fifth place following a 3-1 win at Granada with Carlos Vela netting a goal either side of halftime.
In Saturday's other match, a fourth-minute goal from Ramon Azeez was enough to give Almeria a 1-0 victory at Real Betis.