Malaga's chances of automatic promotion met a setback on Monday night as league leaders Osasuna came back from a goal down to win on an evening where referee Isidro Díaz de Mera was kept busy.
He drew the ire of the home faithful early on as Gustavo Blanco Leschuk was taken down on the edge of the box. The referee played the advantage but then allowed his linesman to overrule and give an offside in the very next pass.
The early pressure came from the players in blue and white and they were able to get an early breakthrough thanks to a man who only passed a late fitness test. Blanco Leschuk, who took advantage of some hesitancy from the Osasuna defenders on the right, had plenty of time to whip in an inch-perfect cross for Adrián to nod past Rubén from just six yards out - his seventh goal of the season.
With a lot on the line in this top-of-the-table clash, the passion from the crowd started to translate to the players on the field with a number of clashes and personal battles beginning to take shape, especially between Keidi Bare and Juan Villar as the striker started to take exception to Malaga's time-wasting. Both, however, escaped punishment.
Passions once again threatened to boil over when the Osasuna bench leapt out of their seats to lambast the officials when the linesman incorrectly called a Malaga throw, when the ball took a nick off Renato Santos. Substitute keeper Sergio Herrera got a yellow card but it certainly wouldn't be the last of the game.
Just before the break, Renato's decision-making almost certainly cost Malaga the opportunity to score the second goal. Alfred N'Diaye's clumsy yet effective run into the box put the ball on a plate for the Portuguese winger but his touch let him down and he dragged his shot well wide when a pass to his left, where he had two teammates unmarked, would have been the much better option.
Another flashpoint came just before half time when Javi Ontiveros, already on a yellow card, went down a little theatrically under a challenge. Instead of taking any action over this alleged simulation, the referee blew the half-time whistle, cueing players to enter the pitch to remonstrate. Federico Ricca and Fran Mérida picked up bookings to take the first half tally to seven.
Sufficiently wound up by the events of the first 45, the visitors flew out the traps immediately after the restart, hitting Malaga on the counter-attack, with Rubén García beating Munir in the one-on-one after being set clean through on goal by Robert.
This setback took the wind out of Malaga's sails as Juan Ramón Muñiz's side struggled to create anything. Long throws courtesy of Luis Hernández may have caused momentary periods of panic but, on the whole, the Osasuna rearguard soaked up all of the pressure.
Then, as the final quarter of an hour approached, the visitors showed exactly why they sit top of the table on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run. A neat reverse pass from Íñigo Pérez picked out Juan Villar in the area and the big striker kept his nerve and tucked past Munir.
Unmoved until this point, falling behind prompted Muñiz into action. On came Yevhen Seleznov, Álex Mula and Jack Harper as he abandoned his cautious 4-1-4-1 in favour of an attacking 4-4-2 diamond with Harper at the tip.
However, this exposed his side at the back and they nearly conceded two goals in two minutes, with Munir denying Villar twice - on the second occasion in spectacular fashion.
A vague penalty appeal for the use of a hand to block Seleznov's shot from the edge of the box followed, but the last chance fans inside the ground were craving didn't come.
Muñiz remained positive despite the defeat which leaves Malaga six points away from second place: "This was a very hard defeat to take but we've still got everything to play for."