Atletico Madrid missed the opportunity to go top of LaLiga as Mario Gaspar's strike secured a 1-1 draw for Villarreal at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
After a sluggish start to the season, which saw Atletico win just one of their opening four games, Diego Simeone's side had given themselves a glorious chance of reaching the league's summit on Saturday with three wins in their four previous outings.
Filipe Luis looked to have set them on their way to another victory, heading in after 51 minutes on a day where rivals Real Madrid continued their slump with a loss to Levante, but Mario's deflected effort 14 minutes later earned Javi Calleja's side a deserved point.
Villarreal could have even gone on to win the game, but were kept at bay by some superb goalkeeping from Jan Oblak, while Atletico had their chance to win it when Thomas Lemar somehow headed Juanfran's cross wide with a minute remaining.
The closest either side came during a tepid opening half-hour was Antoine Griezmann's dipping effort from 25 yards, which flashed just over Sergio Asenjo's crossbar.
Oblak had to be alert soon after to tip over Jaume Costa's deflected strike and preserve his side’s status as the only team in Europe's top five leagues not to concede a first-half goal this season.
The visitors forged ahead after the restart when Griezmann's inswinging free-kick was headed against his own crossbar by Ramiro Funes Mori and Filipe nodded in the rebound from 10 yards.
They were pegged back after 65 minutes, however, when Mario's low strike was deflected past Oblak by Filipe after a goalmouth scramble.
The goalkeeper had to be at his very best to push away Pablo Fornals' drive soon after and then thwart the clean-through Carlos Bacca to ensure his side at least left with a point.
Atletico almost claimed victory with Lemar's late chance, but an end-to-end finish did not produce a winner.
What does it mean: Missed opportunity for Atleti
Their time at the summit could have been a short one given that a Barcelona or Sevilla win in their match later on Saturday would have dethroned them, but it would still have been quite the achievement after their poor start to the campaign, and a chance to capitalise on the chaos at Santiago Bernabeu.
A draw was no disgrace, though, and stretched their unbeaten run in the league to six games. Villarreal, meanwhile, will be buoyed by their stirring second-half display and should get back to winning ways soon if they continue to play like that.
Oblak in inspired form
Oblak sat out of Slovenia's games during the international break, and it proved to be a wise move with a superb performance to deny Villarreal. He was immense in the second half and was only beaten for the equaliser by a cruel deflection, ending the match with five saves.
Griezmann out of sorts
He scored twice in France's win over Germany in midweek, but Atleti's talismanic forward was way short of his best on Saturday. Griezmann's free-kick led to the Filipe goal, but in open play he was comfortably kept at arm's length by the Villarreal backline, and he only had one shot all game - typical of a poor attacking display from his side.
Key Opta stats: Simeone cannot solve Villarreal puzzle
- Atletico have failed to win their last seven LaLiga games against Villarreal (D3 L4), their second-worst active run against a single opponent (Barcelona - 16).
- Filipe scored his very first headed goal in LaLiga (14 goals in 332 appearances).
- Villarreal have failed to win each of their last six home league matches (D3 L3), equalling their worst streak at home in the top flight recorded in October 2003 (D5 L1).
- This is the first Villarreal season that they failed to win any of their first five LaLiga home games (D2 L3).
- Oblak has saved 14 of the last 15 shots on target he has faced in LaLiga.
Atleti resume their Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a visit to Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund, while Villarreal host Rapid Vienna a day later in the Europa League before a Saturday league trip to high-flying Deportivo Alaves.
|Otamendi not happy at Man City, says Guardiola|
|Workaholic Woods learning to rest as he prepares for 2019 debut|
|Henry´s Monaco dumped out of Coupe de France|
|Qatar can win Asian Cup, says Sanchez|
|Tim Howard to retire following 2019 MLS season|
|Koscielny backs Bellerin to return from injury ´stronger than before´|
|Chiefs fire DC Bob Sutton after AFC Championship loss to Patriots|
|Reyes returns to Spain with second-tier strugglers Extremadura|
|Emiliano Sala: Profile of Cardiff City striker missing after joining from Nantes|
|Messi rested for Sevilla trip, Boateng set for debut|
|Nuno fined over pitch celebration in Leicester win|
|Nadal unfazed by another Next Gen opponent in Tsitsipas|
|Ulster hand lifetime ban to spectator after Zebo abuse|
|Phehlukwayo´s career-best day inspires Proteas against Pakistan|
|Bournemouth pounce for Brentford´s Mepham|
|You say all signings are controversial – Valverde defends Boateng arrival|
|Search for missing Sala plane suspended|
|Kohli and Williamson display mutual respect as India and Black Caps prepare for battle|
|Qatar 1 Iraq 0: Al Rawi free-kick books quarter-final spot|
|Ba joins Adebayor and Robinho at Istanbul Basaksehir|
|BREAKING NEWS: Tottenham´s Alli out until March with hamstring injury|
|Fit-again Joseph added to England squad|
|It is very, very serious for us - Tuchel wants midfielder in January window|
|Lakers expect Rajon Rondo back Thursday as LeBron James continues rehab|
|Atletico Madrid boosted as Koke thigh injury revealed to be minor|
|South Korea 2 Bahrain 1 (after extra time): Kim Jin-su seals quarter-final spot|
|AC Milan confirm Zapata thigh injury|
|I miss him a lot - Guardiola confirms ´clever´ Mendy back in Man City squad|
|Tiafoe wants LeBron meeting after run to Australian Open quarters|
|Cardiff continue to ´pray´ for Sala|
|West Ham fined over Burnley clash chaos|
|Knicks star Enes Kanter frustrated by reduced role|
|Kvitova getting back to her best, says Barty|
|Kvitova revels in first semi of ´second career´|
|Messi´s the best player in every world – Boateng dismisses past Real Madrid comments|
|Thunder frustrations continue against Renegades|
|Alonso vows to clear name in tax fraud case|
|Classy Nadal downs Tiafoe to set up Tsitsipas semi|
|Hoedt leaves Southampton for Celta Vigo on loan|
|Melbourne City 4 Western Sydney Wanderers 3: Hosts edge thriller with two goals in last six minutes|
|Wilder won´t even pick up the phone - Hearn not hopeful of AJ bout|
|Sala was on board missing plane, say French authorities|
|Arsenal´s Bellerin out for season with ACL rupture|
|Gatland waiting on ´concrete´ offers|
|Ronaldo accepts prison sentence and €18.8m fine for tax fraud|
|Tsitsipas: It was vital to back up Federer win|
|Awesome Kvitova ends Barty´s home run in Melbourne|
|CA rejects Thunder appeal for full points in abandoned Heat clash|
|Emiliano Sala: Concerns grow for Cardiff striker after plane goes missing|
|Harden unimpressed with refs in Rockets´ 76ers disappointment|
|Ronaldo arrives for sentencing in tax fraud case|
|Record-breaking evening ´one of those nights´ for Warriors star Thompson|
|Hazard still interested in Real Madrid but won´t rule out Chelsea stay|
|Collins moves past Pavlyuchenkova, into Australian Open semis|
|Kohli makes history with ICC awards sweep|
|Thompson sets NBA record with 10 straight made three-pointers to open game|
|76ers hand Rockets largest loss of season, Harden scores 37 points|
|Tsitsipas overcomes Bautista Agut to continue Aus Open run|
|Barcelona move a ´dream come true´ for Boateng|
|Rams coach McVay on Gurley: I´ve got to get him more opportunities|
|Butler´s sprained wrist not expected to keep him out ´long term´|
|Saints owner Benson will ´aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies´|
|Levante to take Copa case to CAS|
|It can happen – Allegri plays down Ronaldo penalty miss|
|Mavericks´ Doncic becomes second-youngest player to record triple-double|
|Yankees send Sonny Gray to Reds|
|Ashley Cole reunited with Frank Lampard at Derby County|
|Arnold ready to mix things up in 2019 Asian Cup quarter-finals|
|Arum: Joshua desperately needs to fight in the United States|
|South Korea v Bahrain: Bento optimistic of continuing unblemished campaign|