After two consecutive league defeats, Malaga returned to winning ways on Saturday evening with victory on the holiday island of Mallorca. It was far from plain sailing, though, as the Blue and Whites were pegged back in the second half and needed a late winner from full-back Cifu to seal the side's first win away from home in more than three months.
Facing the prospect of seeing their title challenge evaporate, Malaga knew that they needed to reverse a run of poor form as they started their run-in to the Christmas break. Recent troubles on the road for the Costa del Sol side made in-form Mallorca the favourites to claim the three points and overtake their visitors.
In fact, they started strongest and had the ball in the net when Antonio Raíllo's header crept in at Munir's left post. However, the linesman ruled out the effort for offside when replays showed that shouldn't have been the case.
Malaga, however, didn't heed the warning and almost conceded in identical circumstances moments later, only for Munir to bail out his colleagues on this occasion with a two-handed save
As half time approached, the visitors found the all-important breakthrough as Scotsman Jack Harper tapped into an unguarded net. The ball fell to the youth-team striker after Adrián's header from a corner came back out off the crossbar and the keeper Miquel Parera flapped at the ball under pressure from Gustavo Blanco Leschuk. The Mallorca players appealed for a foul by the Argentinian striker but the referee was unmoved.
In the second half, Vicente Moreno's side showed why they were unbeaten in seven league games and had not lost at home since 23 September. The pressure on the Malaga backline increased and it eventually told in the 73rd minute when Fran Gámez's volley across the face of goal was converted at the back post by Álex López though neither Diego González nor Munir covered themselves in glory.
With only a win enough to keep the pressure on Granada and Alcorcón at the top, Juan Ramón Muñiz's team stepped up a gear and pushed for the win. The goal eventually came with just five minutes to go and from a very unlikely source. When full-back Cifu found himself on the end of Javi Ontiveros' cushioned header in the penalty area, without unerring confidence he brought the ball into his stride before letting off a fierce strike across the keeper into the side netting.
The players celebrated like a side who hadn't won away since 3 September (in Almeria) - a welcome confidence ahead of the visit of Cadiz on Friday evening.
"We have seen a great game in which both teams were fighting for the three points," said coach Juan Ramón Muñiz following the game. "We've not had good results recently but we are still heading along the right lines."