Malaga's euphoria was short-lived. After a big win against Deportivo last Wednesday, a limp 2-1 defeat against Sporting Gijón in Asturias on Monday night has invited the pressure back on for the final two fixtures of the season as the side fights to avoid relegation.
Sporting - only two points ahead of Malaga before kick-off - stormed into an early lead after just three minutes, as full-back Unai Medina latched onto Pedro Díaz’s neat pass before finishing like an experienced striker past goalkeeper Munir, who conceded for the first time in six games.
Despite the boost of a victory last time out, Malaga lacked attacking ideas this time around and their only first-half effort came from Armando Sadiku whose header was well off target.
As for Sporting, they controlled the tempo of the match and were the more productive side in possession throughout against their comparatively disjointed opponents.
This showed in Sporting's second goal, after a nice sequence of passes ended in Nacho Méndez’s excellent through ball which found forward Álvaro Vázquez who slotted in calmly to double his side’s advantage.
Malaga improved marginally after half time, applying more pressure on Sporting’s defence, and Hicham Boussefiane did well to win the ball in midfield before whistling a low shot just wide on 52 minutes.
Besides that chance, Malaga offered very little, as their mid-table hosts eased their way closer to three points.
Miroslav Đukić’s side could have extended their lead further, but were let down by Álvaro’s wasteful finishing, in a game where he should have scored a hattrick against an unusually leaky Malaga defence.
Substitute Keidi - back from a red-card suspension - gave Malaga a glimmer of hope in injury time, pouncing on a loose ball inside the box to score clinically past keeper Diego Mariño, but it proved too little too late.
Following the contest, Malaga coach Sergio Pellicer admitted the plan was to "press the opposition high up the pitch, to play with a fast rhythm and to attack the spaces". However, he conceded: "It turned out to be the complete opposite."
"We now have to take caution and be patient. It's still in our own hands so we have to be self-critical but keep our heads held high."
A positive outcome in Malaga's next game against mid-table Alcorcón is now especially important, given the last game of the season is a daunting test along the coast at promotion-chasing Almeria.
With Racing Santander and Extremadura already down, Malaga are one of seven teams fighting to avoid the last two relegation spots in what is set to be a nail-biting conclusion to the campaign.
Fortunately for the Blue and Whites, however, they remain ahead of fellow strugglers Albacete in the table, who are in even greater danger after a 2-0 loss at Elche.