The worst version of Real Madrid was back when it slumped at Levante to 2-2 on Saturday, only 11 days from its critical Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain.
Madrid appeared to have taken control through Francisco "Isco" Alarcon's goal in the 81st minute, but Giampaolo Pazzini equalized on his debut for Levante with two minutes remaining to split the points.
The result left Madrid in fourth place and 18 points behind leader Barcelona, and erased all signs of the improvement Zinedine Zidane's team showed in consecutive wins in La Liga.
Out of reach of the Liga title and eliminated from the Copa del Rey, Madrid's season rides on defending its European title.
And that means subduing the firepower of the Neymar-led PSG on Feb. 14 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
"We know the league is almost impossible, but we need to finish well in the league because it builds our confidence," Madrid midfielder Casemiro said. "We know how important the games against Paris are."
Madrid went ahead in the 11th through Sergio Ramos' header, but Levante striker Emmanuel Boateng scored from the edge of the area to make it 1-1 three minutes before halftime.
Levante, which also drew at Madrid 1-1 in September, was three points above the relegation zone.
A minute after Isco scored Zidane sent on Marco Asensio to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.
Zidane said he planned to rest his star forward in the final minutes, and did so with the win seemingly in hand.
"We are not pleased with the result," Zidane said. "After the second goal all we had to do was keep possession and we weren't sharp defensively. This year has been complicated for us because we can't string together good results."
Madrid only has next week's match against Real Sociedad to find its stride before PSG.