Manchester City strengthened their Premier League top-four aspirations with a 5-0 thrashing of a woeful Crystal Palace side at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
City never looked back after David Silva’s 50th goal for the club in the second minute although it was not until the second half that the floodgates opened with Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi all on target.
Victory moved City into third place with 69 points, above Liverpool on goal difference. Fifth-placed Manchester United, who play sixth-placed Arsenal on Sunday, have 65.
It was the kind of vibrant play City produced at the start of the season when they topped the table and should Arsenal defeat Manchester United on Sunday they will be hot favourites to seal another season of Champions League football.
“Our performance was high level. I’m pleased for our people we can finally enjoy a lot of goals here,” manager Pep Guardiola, who has bemoaned his side’s finishing of late, said.
Palace’s third consecutive defeat means they are still anxiously looking over their shoulders at the teams below them although they remain six points above third-bottom Swansea City who are in action on Sunday at home to Everton.
Two consecutive draws had undermined City’s hopes of finishing in the top four but they hit top gear from the first whistle and did not have to wait long to go ahead.
Silva’s chipped pass sought out the clever run of Sterling and when his lob was headed weakly away by Martin Kelly the lurking Silva drove a volley past Wayne Hennessey.
Palace were in danger of being overrun and the fleet-footed Leroy Sane forced Hennessey into two good saves.
The visitors could have equalised when Andros Townsend’s fine cross was net powerfully by Christian Benteke but Willy Caballero made reflex save to keep out the Belgian’s header.
City’s second goal arrived two minutes after the break from an unlikely source - Kompany crashing home an unstoppable shot for his first home goal since August 2015.
Wales keeper Hennessey was at fault as he let Kevin de Bruyne’s weak shot creep inside the post to make it 3-0 on the hour as City forged clear.
Sterling’s sweetly-struck left-foot shot made it 4-0 before defender Otamendi got on the scoresheet with a diving header from De Bruyne’s chipped free kick - only his second City goal.
Palace manager Sam Allardyce was critical of his team’s defending.
“All five goals were avoidable. We didn’t make them produce their brilliant talent, we gifted them five goals. They punished us heavily,” he said.
At the KCOM Stadium, already relegated Sunderland won for the first time in 11 games to leave fourth bottom Hull City just two points above the relegation zone.
Hull boss Marco Silva had been unbeaten in his previous 41 home league games, a record dating back to his time in charge of Portuguese side Estoril in 2014 and encompassing spells with Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos.
Having taken 19 points from a possible 21 at home during his four months as Hull boss, it was a shock to the Portuguese coach when his side fell behind in the 69th minute.
John O’Shea flicked on a corner and Billy Jones launched into a diving header that flashed past Eldin Jakupovic.
Abel Hernandez was denied an equaliser by Jordan Pickford’s superb save and Jermain Defoe steered in from an offside position to add to Hull’s misery two minutes into stoppage-time.
If third bottom Swansea beat Everton later on Saturday, then Hull will drop into the bottom three with only two games remaining.
“Ultimately there was big tension in some of the team. We need to be calm in some moments,” Silva said.
“It’s an important moment for us. We didn’t achieve what we wanted but we have two more games.”
Bournemouth secured their top-flight status for another year after a 2-2 draw against Stoke at Dean Court.
When a Stoke corner curled into the penalty area in the 33rd minute, Bournemouth’s France Under-20 international Lys Mousset, making his first Premier League start, glanced the ball into his own net, giving the visitors their first away league goal in more than 10 hours.
Junior Stanislas equalised for Bournemouth in the 62nd minute before Stoke’s Mame Biram Diouf bundled in his first goal for 12 months in the 73rd minute.
Eddie Howe’s side rescued their priceless point thanks to an 81st minute own goal from Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross.
Burnley were made to wait to confirm their survival after being held to a 2-2 draw by West Bromwich Albion at Turf Moor.
Sam Vokes put Burnley ahead before Salomon Rondon and Craig Dawson netted for the visitors.
Vokes struck again with just four minutes left, heading in after Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster misjudged Robbie Brady’s cross.
Leicester piled pressure on under-fire Watford manager Walter Mazzarri with a 3-0 win at the King Power Stadium, the goals coming from Wilfred Ndidi, Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton.
(With inputs from AFP)