Diego Simeone's men could have moved level on 42 points with third-placed Getafe with victory but, despite taking the lead twice, they were pegged back, meaning Sevilla and Real Sociedad could overtake them this weekend.
Although quality was lacking, the first half certainly entertained and Atletico just about edged it at the interval, with Marcos Llorente and Thomas Partey scoring either side of Gabriel Paulista's equaliser.
Valencia eventually became the superior force in the second half after Geoffrey Kondogbia's 59th-minute goal tied the score, but it failed to make the most of its late dominance as Kevin Gameiro spurned a glorious chance to down his former employer.
The early proceedings were by no means thrilling but Atletico made the most of a rare goal-scoring opportunity, as Angel Correa's shot struck Gabriel and Llorente was on hand to prod past Jaume Domenech.
Valencia levelled with five minutes of the first half to play, Gabriel heading in from close range after Maxi Gomez's delivery.
Atletico still went into the break ahead, thanks to Thomas's 20-yard strike, the midfielder drilling into the bottom-left corner after Valencia allowed him to charge forward.
Both sides initially struggled to control a scrappy affair after the break, but Valencia restored parity for a second time just before the hour – Kondogbia converting from close range after Dani Parejo's free-kick delivery.
Former Atletico striker Gameiro was introduced from the bench and should have put the hosts in front 16 minutes from time, but he blazed over from eight yards out and Gomez followed suit from a little further out soon after as Atletico held on to a commendable point.