Diego Simeone's side were unable to dominate a Real Sociedad side full of attacking talent, but Atletico's defence was as reliable as ever and even set them on their way with the first goal through centre-back Mario Hermoso.
The defender had arguably gone closer than anyone else to the opening goal in a first half that was intriguing, if not exhilarating.
But in the 49th minute, Atletico – so often a threat at set-pieces once upon a time – edged in front thanks to Hermoso's well-timed header at a free-kick.
Marcos Llorente doubled the lead towards the end, meaning early-season leaders La Real are now in danger of slipping out of the top four after their winless LaLiga run was extended to six games.
A well contested first half brought plenty of neat football but few clear-cut chances, with the two defences extremely well organised.
The hosts looked as though they had carved Atletico open in the 20th minute, with David Silva going on a mazy run up the right flank, but his cutback was crucially intercepted before Willian Jose could pounce.
Soon after at the other end, Hermoso had a header from a corner blocked by Andoni Gorosabel right in front of goal – though it may have been going just off target.
That was a warning La Real failed to heed as Hermoso broke the stalemate just after the restart, heading emphatically past Alex Remiro from Yannick Carrasco's free-kick delivery.
La Real's response was underwhelming, Atletico's backline remaining unruffled, and the visitors sealed the points 16 minutes from time.
Luis Suarez did well on the left and helped the ball towards Llorente with a deflection, and the midfielder's left-footed strike from the edge of the box left Remiro helpless.