Real Madrid players had been saying all week that they had to beat Valencia to stay in the Spanish title race and they did just that with a 2-1 victory over the 2002 and 2004 champions on Saturday.
Goals from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos mean that Real moved up to second place.
"It was a big day for us. We played well and if we keep playing like this then we can still lift the league," Van Nistelrooy said.
Van Nistelrooy scored his 17th league goal of the season -- and one of the best by Real this year -- with a spectacular right-foot volley from just inside the area after a perfect pass from Miguel Torres on the left wing.
"It was the passes before that set up the goal but it was a great center from Miguel," Van Nistelrooy added.
Real then had a purple patch of around 15 minutes when Van Nistelrooy and club captain Raul Gonzalez should have added to their tally.
However Valencia got back into the game just before the break and shortly afterwards Fernando Morientes scored against his old club, where he had spent eight seasons and been part of teams that had won the Champions League three times.
Morientes found the net seven minutes after the break after finding the space to side foot home a Joaquin Sanchez cross after the Spanish international winger had outsprinted Torres down the right wing.
Real were clearly determined to maintain their championship challenge against a team that had beaten them in the Santiago Bernabeu last season.
Sergio Ramos got the winner 17 minutes from time when he rose above the Valencia defense to head home a David Beckham free kick.
It was a huge contribution from the former England captain after only being on the pitch barely five minutes. He was playing his first game for six weeks after recovering from a knee injury.
Real were overall the better side but still had to survive some nervous moments in the final minutes as Valencia pressed hard for a draw and Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to work hard to deny his fellow Spanish internationals Asier Del Horno and David Villa in the final minutes.
"It was important to win the way we did against a very good side. In the first half Gago and Higuain played well and in the second half [substitutes] Beckham and Guti were crucial," reflected Real's Italian coach Fabio Capello.
Real Sociedad continued to keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation with their third win in four games, beating Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Saturday.
Sociedad took an early lead with Darko Kovacevic stabbing the ball home from close range, following a cross from the left wing by Savio, after only seven minutes.
Atletico then had their French midfielder Peter Luccin sent off for trying to con the referee about a non-existent foul 20 minutes from time and shortly afterwards the visitors were left with nine men when Fabiano Eller picked up his second yellow card.
Savio then secured all three points for Sociedad with six minutes remaining.
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