Typical. You turn your back on them once, just once, and they go and do that. Look the other way and there they are, tugging at your sleeve, poking you in the side and jumping up and down, waving their arms around and shouting: "Look at me! Look at me!" No matter how hard you try, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona have a way of making it all about them. Even when it's not – and this week it wasn't. At least, it wasn't supposed to be.

This week more than any other week it was supposed to be about the others. Barcelona were playing Real Sociedad at 6pm on Saturday. Also at 6pm there was a game of football that was worth watching. At 10pm there was another. In between times, some filler: Madrid versus Getafe. Third, fourth, fifth and seventh from last season – the four sides along with Málaga most likely to challenge for the other league, the only teams with any chance of getting anywhere near the big two – were going head-to-head. Better still, football's revolutionaries were drawn together too. And so were the teams that, for all the faux-brotherhood, are actually their greatest rivals.

With perfect timing, it was a night for Spain's other teams – proper matches involving proper teams, an act of vindication. First Villarreal versus Sevilla, then Valencia versus Atlético Madrid. The Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was racing up and down the east coast, from the Madrigal to Mestalla, to see them. He had Borja Valero, Alvaro Negredo, Alvaro Domínguez and Roberto Soldado to watch; the rest of us had Giuseppe Rossi and Diego Perrotti, Pablo Piatti and Radamel Falcao, plus Diego and Arda Turan.

After an opening weekend in which Barcelona and Real Madrid won 6-0 and 5-0, Sevilla's president José María del Nido declared the league "una mierda – la mayor porquería de Europa", which politely translates as: "rubbish – the biggest pile of junk in Europe". The league was "shit"; the phrase "liga de mierda" was everywhere. Last season Barcelona finished on 96 points, Madrid on 92, third-placed Valencia on 71; the season before, Barcelona finished on 99 points, Madrid on 96 and Valencia on 71. Pep Guardiola had called the totals "barbaric". Now, with Madrid and Barcelona one and two with a goal difference of scored 11 conceded nought after only one match, some of Spain's clubs decided he was right.

They also decided they had had enough; it was time to do something about the LFP. Backed by the Villarreal president Fernando Roig, Del Nido called a meeting in Sevilla to which every single team was invited – apart, pointedly, from Real Madrid and Barcelona. In the end, in a climate of fear and to a backdrop of threats, 12 teams turned up. At the centre of the agenda was the distribution of TV money for La Liga teams; Madrid and Barcelona earn 10 times what Racing Santander do each season and a proposed collective deal would enshrine their dominance given them 35% of the money alone. It had to be stopped. It was, said Roig, getting "boring".

Del Nido and the Villarreal president Fernando Roig had long been the most vociferous opponents of Spain's duopoly – not least because the proposed new deal manoeuvres them into fifth and sixth behind Atlético and Valencia, not third and fourth as they had hoped – but they were not alone. The Levante president, Quique Pena, talked about going on strike; there were suggestions that Spain's other teams should down tools and play youth teams against Madrid and Barcelona as a means of pressure. There were also more concrete suggestions to change the entire structure of the league. What there wasn't – despite accusations to the contrary – was a refusal to honour already signed contracts. Nor was there a resolution, or any turning back. This, said Del Nido, was "like the French revolution … and we all know what happened to that guy".

So when Del Nido took his seat at the Madrigal on Saturday, he did so to a warm welcome and to a backdrop of banners appealing for justice. Here was a chance, too, to be the centre of attention; to prove that, for now at least, there is life beyond the big two – games worth watching and teams worth respecting, a life worth protecting. The argument was clear: if Spain's league is becoming a two horse race it is not because the rest are a bunch of donkeys. Not yet, anyway – not until they have been completely stripped of their best players. With Atlético playing Valencia two hours after the final whistle, the point was starker still. After all, ask yourself where David Silva and Sergio Agüero came from. Here were teams that between them have two Uefa Cups, reached two Champions League finals and a Champions League semi between them over the past decade, but no chance of winning their domestic league. Why not watch them? Why watch Madrid and Barcelona stroll to massive wins every week?

At 6.11pm, the point appeared made. Up in San Sebastián, Barcelona were winning 2-0. Two days before, Guardiola had been honoured by the Catalan parliament; during his acceptance speech, he revealed that before every game he goes into an underground bunker with a video and there is a moment, as he watches, that he just knows what is going to happen. So too did everyone else.

The decision to watch Villarreal-Sevilla instead was justified: Barcelona were cruising while the rebels taking on the evil empire were on course for a 2-2 draw that boasted a red card, a 40-year-old goalkeeper saving a penalty with his first touch and picking the ball out of the net with his second, an absolute belter from Marco Rubén, and a late, undeserved equaliser from Alexis Ruano. The next day Marca's match report opened on: "90 minutes of good football are worth 90 meetings of the G12. Less than 48 hours after the indignados met, and without talking about figures or contracts, there was proof that there is life beyond the big two."

Two hours later, Atlético felt equally unlucky: it might have finished 1-0 to Valencia but the night's big game – the week's "public interest" game, shown live on free to air – was breathless, swinging back and forth. And not only did Soldado get another – he's now got 16 in his past 11 league games – but, once Diego and Ardan came on to join José Antonio Reyes and Falcao in the Atlético attack, there were signs that they could be great to watch this season.

Better than Madrid and Barcelona, anyway. There's good football out there. Uncertainty, too. Barcelona were two up in 11 minutes; against Getafe Madrid took only two minutes longer to take the lead, through Karim Benzema. Same old, same old.

Or perhaps not. There was a flaw in the plan: David Villa provided a wonderful, 40-yard defence-splitting pass – straight to Agirretxe. He stepped around Valdés and shot. Sergio Busquets emulated his dad – except that his dad used to insist on using his feet – and dived to tip it on to the bar; before anyone could appeal for a penalty Antoine Griezmann headed in the rebound. It was Real Sociedad's second in two minutes and suddenly it was 2-2. A Messi dive got him into the referee's notebook rather than Barcelona back into the game. Barcelona had blown it.

It wasn't long before there was another twist too: over at the Bernabéu, Madrid's one-goal lead became 1-1. Getafe, whose best player was out because of one of those cowardly clauses, were socking it to the man. Until the man socked it to them: a foul on Ronaldo that may not have been a foul and certainly was outside the area gave Madrid a penalty to make it 2-1. Benzema then made it 3-1 but Getafe were not beaten: a second for Miku made it 3-2. It wasn't until the 87th minute when Gonzalo Higuaín finally secured the win with the fourth.

Suddenly, all was fine with the world. Who said the league is unbalanced? Real Madrid lead Barcelona by two points for the first time in three years and the top two are not even the top two: Barcelona are fourth, behind Valencia and Betis. "All week talking about the TV contracts, of unjust distribution, of a two-team league or a rubbish one and at the hour of truth football shows that just about anything is possible," cheered Marca's match report from San Sebastián, while AS declared: "the much maligned league came back to life." AS's match report from the Bernabéu went down a similar path: "Maybe it is not what we thought," it opened, "maybe the league is not so bad when it comes to inequality." The paper's editorial said it all: "This league is not so two-team … good news." On the back of Sport, the cartoon depicted Del Nido admitting: "I'm going to have to eat my words with chips."

Only in a way, it was worse. As if it had been a cunning ploy from the big two: let's give them half a chance just to shut them up for a bit. Dominance creates an attention trap – you dare not look away because this may be the week in which one of the big two slip up – and this week, the week that should have been everyone else's, was that week. The willingness to see everything as suddenly A-OK was bizarre too, as if one week counts more than a discernible trend. Barcelona dropping points after an international break is not entirely new: according to soccer statistician Alexis Martín they average 32% of the points available after the break compared to 81% normally; Getafe have taken Madrid to the wire before. There was something freakish about the result in San Sebastián and something wasteful about Madrid's finishing at the Bernabéu. And besides, one rather important thing appears to have been forgotten: neither Madrid nor Barcelona actually lost.

Reports of La Liga's death were exaggerated. But not that exaggerated.

Talking points

Prediction time: First coach to be sacked, Michael Laudrup. The bitter assault upon him from certain commentators in the Mallorca press – the same assassins for hire who slaughtered other coaches on the verge of departure – is as eloquent as it is ugly. And then there's the fact that the results aren't good and he has publicly complained about the club's failure to get a striker.

• Rayo Vallecano's first home game in the top flight ended 0-0 – thanks to the penalty save from the Zaragoza keeper Roberto. Behind him the fans went wild. Only joking: there weren't any fans behind him.

• Betis are second – and deservedly so. Their midfield three – Beñat, Iriney and Sevilla are proving genuinely impressive. Besides, who could begrudge them coming back to the First Division when you see the atmosphere at Heliópolis? They have been away too long.

• Athletic: too much too soon? Change, that is. In patches, Marcelo Bielsa's team looked impressive against Espanyol but they ended up losing 2-1 and there is a sense that they still haven't fully captured the message of a new coach who wants to completely revolutionise their way of playing. It will take time but some are concerned already. Losing Ander Herrera to injury is a huge blow too.

Results: Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona, Real Madrid 4-2 Getafe. Betis 1-0 Mallorca, Osasuna 2-1 Sporting, Espanyol 2-1 Athletic, Villarreal 2-2 Sevilla, Valencia 1-0 Atlético, Racing 0-0 Levante, Rayo 0-0 Zaragoza. Monday night: Málaga-Granada.

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