MADRID (Reuters) - Villarreal tightened their grip on fourth place in La Liga when Nigerian forward Ikechukwu Uche's last-gasp strike snatched a 1-0 win at fellow promoted side Elche on Monday.
A hard-fought and entertaining match at Elche's Martinez Valero stadium in Alicante looked headed for a goalless draw until Uche clipped the ball home from close range in the 90th minute.
The victory lifted the team with the distinctive canary-yellow strip to 23 points from 12 matches, three ahead of fifth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who lost 2-0 at second-placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
"We knew how to hang in there and at the end we got that piece of luck we needed," Uche said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Cuatro.
"At the moment, we are in a Champions League qualification place but we have to take things step by step," added the pacy 29-year-old.
"The team is having a good season so far and we have to continue down the same path.
"Defensively we were solid and in football I think you have to wait for your chance and finally it came."
Villarreal spent a year in the second division last season and under coach Marcelino have been impressive on their return to the top flight with some attractive attacking football.
They held Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw at their Madrigal stadium in September and recorded a thumping 4-1 home win against Valencia at the end of last month.
Champions Barcelona, who have won 11 and drawn one of their 12 matches, are top on 34 points, with Atletico on 33 in second and Real Madrid third on 28.
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris)