( dpa ) - Real Madrid are close to their 31st Spanish league title after Sunday's 1-0 home win over lowly Murcia - combined with Villarreal's loss in Almeria.
Wesley Sneijder scored the crucial goal for Real, who played with 10 men for 70 minutes after the sending-off of defender Miguel Torres.
Later Sunday, Villarreal crashed 1- 0 in Almeria.
The results leave Real with 69 points from 32 games. Barcelona - held to a disappointing 2-2 draw Saturday in Huelva - have 60 points, and Villarreal are third with 59.
Never in the history of La Liga has a team thrown away a nine- point lead with just six matches left.
As so often this season, Real did not play well but came through thanks to their traditional fighting spirit.
Torres got his marching orders in the 20th minute for an ugly foul on Murcia youngster Daniel Aquino.
Even so, Real continued to dominate, with Raul Gonzalez and Arjen Robben missing good chances.
The only goal came in the 59th minute, just as the packed Estadio Bernabeu was beginning to lose patience. Guti took a quick throw-in, Raul laid the ball back for Sneijder, and the Dutchman broke the deadlock with a fierce, top-corner drive.
The goal belatedly forced Murcia out of their defensive shell, but they never really looked capable of snatching a draw.
"It was really important for us to win today," said Raul at the end. "It certainly wasn't easy to do so, playing with a man less for most of the game."
Later Sunday, Almeria did Real a favour by beating Villarreal on a late goal from Peruvian defender Wilmer Acasietes.
The same as Real, Villarreal had to play for most of the match with 10 men, but they lacked the spirit and character of the whites.
Villarreal keeper Diego Lopez was sent off after just 17 minutes for pulling down Albert Crusat in the box. Alvaro Negredo put the resultant penalty wide, but Villarreal would be against the ropes from then on due to being a man short.
The only goal came just seven minutes from time, with Acasietes scoring from close range after a series of errors and rebounds in the Villarreal defence.