Barcelona began the match knowing that a win would take them to within a point of leaders Real Madrid after their 1-1 draw with Villarreal, but Ivan Rakitic’s first-half header was cancelled out by Angel Correa in the second period.
Perhaps more damaging for Barca was the loss of Lionel Messi to a possible recurrence of an existing groin problem, while Sergio Busquets was also withdrawn before the hour mark.
Luis Enrique’s side, unbeaten in 12 league games against Atletico, had controlled much of the proceedings in the first half but found it difficult to muster clear-cut chances, before Rakitic headed in Andres Iniesta’s cross from a short corner.
Atleti made a strong start to the second period and snatched the equaliser when substitutes Fernando Torres and Correa combined within a minute of coming on, just after Messi had failed to shake off discomfort sustained after a tangling with Diego Godin.
Barca won three of their four meetings with Atleti last season 2-1 and they pushed hard for a late winner, but Diego Simeone’s side kept them at bay with relative ease in the closing stages to stay just a point behind in the table, and four adrift of Madrid.