Malaga rose into the Champions League positions in La Liga on Monday after beating 10-man Real Racing Club de Santander 3-0 on Monday.
Racing were a man down from the second minute after Francisco Perez received a red card for pulling down Jose Rondon when he had only goalkeeper Mario Fernandez to beat.
Fernandez saved the penalty attempt by Santi Cazorla, but the hosts dominated the rest of the way.
Francisco “Isco” Alarcon curled a right-footed shot into the corner of the net for Malaga’s 22nd-minute opener.
Cazorla added another from a pass by Enzo Maresca in the 64th minute and substitute striker Ruud van Nistelrooy headed in to seal the win in the 84th.
“The league isn’t over, there are seven games to go, but it’s very important to be in third place,” Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini said. “It isn’t easy reaching this point in front of clubs like Sevilla, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.”
Malaga dispossessed Valencia of third place for the first time in 21 rounds. After 13 games without a win, Racing are seven points from safety.
“We aren’t capable of winning and the only thing we can do is keep working to find solutions,” Racing coach Alvaro Cervera said.