He latched onto a pass on 17 minutes to give the Brewers the lead and despite Latics’ best efforts they could not get the decisive break in front of goal.
That result ended Latics’ three match unbeaten run with manager David Dunn still searching for his first victory at SportsDirect.com Park.
Dunn was forced into making three changes from his last starting line up with Joseph Mills, Mark Yeates and Dominic Poleon all in action.
Latics started the game brightly with Carl Winchester the first player to go close.
The midfielder received the ball from Danny Philliskirk but his half volley went wide of the post.
Athletic were taking the game to the visitors and on 11 minutes, Brian Wilson’s neat through ball found the onrushing Poleon but he could not pick out a man in the box.
Minutes later, it was almost Latics that took the lead through Philliskirk. A move consisting of at least 15 passes found its way to the forward on the edge of the box but his shot went wide of Jon McLaughlin’s post.
Completely against the run of play, the visitors took the lead through El-Khayati.
The winger received the ball inside the box and despite the best efforts of David Cornell, the ball went into the back of the net to give Burton Albion the lead.
Latics were shellshocked and Burton looked to exploit that however Timmy Thiele’s shot midway through the half went wide of the post.
Although Athletic found themselves behind in the game, they were passing the ball with purpose and stringing good moves together.
Dunn’s side needing a response, however, and they almost got the equaliser five minutes later.
The ball fell to Yeates on the left, he crossed into the centre where Philliskirk stood but McLaughlin tipped wide.
Nearing the end of the first half, Cornell released Winchester to run at the Burton back line. He advanced onto the edge of the box, fed Poleon but the Burton defence just managed to crowd him out.
A minute before the break came Latics’ best chance of the half. Cameron Dummigan’s excellent found the head of the onrushing Jay Fulton but a strong palm from McLaughlin steered it onto the crossbar and out for a corner.
Latics came out for the second half full of intent, looking for that equaliser.
With 50 minutes on the clock, Fulton arrowed a ball into the box where Poleon was stood. He headed goalwards but it was just off target.
Burton were doing their best to keep Latics at bay and they were being forced to try their luck from range.
That said, Liam Kelly’s strike from 30 yards on 63 minutes stung the palms of the Burton Albion goalkeeper as Latics continued to press for the equaliser.
Two minutes later, Poleon created a yard of space on the edge of the box but McLaughlin did well to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Latics were huffing and puffing for an equaliser with Mills the next man to test the goalkeeper but his shot was saved well.
Dunn’s side had to be wary of Burton on the break and they almost extended their lead but Mark Duffy’s effort went over Cornell’s crossbar.
With minutes of the game remaining, Latics won a free kick on the edge of the box but Mills’ effort hit the wall and cleared.
Latics threw men forward in a bid to get something from the game but unfortunately time ran out and Latics came away pointless.
Oldham Athletic: Cornell, Dummigan, B.Wilson, J.Wilson, Mills, Philliskirk, Winchester, Kelly, Fulton (Fuller 65’), Yeates (Croft 83’), Poleon.
Subs not used: Coleman, Eckersley, Dieng, Vassell, Read.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin, Edwards, Mousinho, Cansdell-Sherriff (Flanagan 46’), Binnom-Williams, Akins, Naylor, Butcher, El Khayati (O’Connor 88’), Duffy, Thiele (Beavon 78’).
Subs not used: Matthews, Reilly, Palmer, Joachim.
Goals: Oldham Athletic 0-1 Burton Albion (El-Khayati 17’)
Attendance: 3,795 (297 visiting supporters)