Barcelona snatched a 1-0 victory away to Alaves with a late Frenkie de Jong winner on Sunday night that took them to within one point of fourth place.
On a brisk night in the Basque region, Barcelona struggled for any attacking spark. Dominating possession, the Catalan giants were limited to tame, and far too slow, passes in front of a side that started the match 19th in La Liga.
Alaves certainly played their role in stifling a Barcelona side that have rarely been fluent going forward all season, narrowing the gaps between the lines of their 4-5-1 and pushing up the pitch whenever they could to avoid a backs-against-the-wall low block.
The hosts, on the 101st anniversary of the club's formation, came closest to breaking the deadlock at both ends in the first half. Captain Victor Laguardia cannoned a clearance off the chest of his teammate Florian Lejeune and narrowly past their own post.
Alaves' Pere Pons wasted one of the rare sights of goal either side could boast on the cusp of half-time, limply knocking a shot into the grateful arms of Marc-Andre ter Stegen following one of several slack passes from Jordi Alba - the latest culprit - in a soporific display.
As Barcelona tentatively threatened to raise the tempo after the interval, Alaves had space to break into, only to repeatedly prove why they are La Liga's lowest scorers, as their quick transitions often fizzled out before they could get a shot off.
As the match crawled into its final five minutes Barcelona finally provided a flicker of cohesion as Alba picked out Ferran Torres behind the Alaves backline. The January arrival cushioned a pass across the box for Frenkie de Jong to tap the visitors one point behind Atletico Madrid, their opponents after the international break.
Barcelona player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) - 6/10 - Aided by the poor finishing of Alaves when sporadically called into action.
Sergino Dest (RB) - 5/10 - Providing the width on Barcelona's right flank but scarcely any end product.
Gerard Pique (CB) - 7/10 - Swept up what little he had to do without a fuss.
Ronald Araujo (CB) - 5/10 - Skittish when put under pressure on the ball, Araujo hardly helped Barcelona's staccato stutter up the pitch.
Jordi Alba (LB) - 3/10 - Repeatedly guilty of sloppy passes, ceding possession in Barcelona's half.
Pedri (CM) - 6/10 - One of the few figures calling for patience from his teammates, the 19-year-old was the brightest spark on a damp squib of an evening.
Sergio Busquets (CM) - 4/10 - Failed to inject any urgency in Barcelona's painfully predictable build up play.
Frenkie de Jong (CM) - 6/10 - Challenged by Xavi to raise his game, the younger De Jong bailed out a lacklustre performance from the team and himself.
Ferran Torres (RW) - 5/10 - Eager to penetrate the slither of space between fullback and centre back but rarely involved until his well weighted assist.
Luuk de Jong (ST) - 5/10 - Fired a rare snapshot wide as the towering Dutchman was the focal figure from Barcelona's best openings.
Ez Abde (LW) - 4/10 - Swapped to the right flank in-game, Abde struggled to make a telling impact on either wing before winning a competitive battle for the first player to be subbed off.
Nico Gonzalez (CM) - 5/10
Ferran Jutgla (ST) - N/A
Clement Lenglet (CB) - N/A