Sergio Aguero equalled the record for Premier League hat-tricks as a rampant Manchester City thrashed Chelsea 6-0 at home to leapfrog Liverpool and return to the table's summit.
Chelsea were hammered 4-0 at Bournemouth in their last away league match and Maurizio Sarri's side were taken apart by the defending champions at the Etihad Stadium, the Blues suffering their heaviest ever Premier League loss.
Raheem Sterling struck in the fourth minute and Ilkay Gundogan rapidly made it four after Aguero's first-half double, with Chelsea unable to muster any response in the face of City's incredible intensity.
Aguero, who also hit a treble in City's last home league game against Arsenal, stroked home a penalty after the break to join Alan Shearer on 11 Premier League hat-tricks and Sterling struck late to complete the scoring.
Pep Guardiola's side move above Liverpool on goal difference, with the Catalan coach enjoying a crushing victory against a side he has lost to on a record three league occasions.
City made a blistering start and led 4-0 inside 25 minutes, with Aguero on target twice.
Sterling opened the scoring with a thumping drive after Bernardo Silva's cross deflected into his path, then Aguero somehow missed an open goal from three yards out.
Aguero soon made amends with a thunderous 25-yard drive after great work from Oleksandr Zinchenko and he then capitalised on Ross Barkley's abysmal header to become City's record league goalscorer.
City's fourth came from Gundogan, his placed 20-yard shot beating Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Ederson brilliantly tipping over Gonzalo Higuain's volley at the other end before the break.
Aguero's header from Kevin De Bruyne's cross crashed against the crossbar but the Argentina attacker was able to celebrate his historic treble in the 56th minute.
Sterling's pace and skill drew a clumsy Cesar Azpilicueta foul inside the box and Aguero beat Kepa once more with an excellent penalty.
Guardiola was able to rest City's hat-trick hero, De Bruyne and Fernandinho for the closing stages and Sterling tapped in a cross from the lively Zinchenko for a simple sixth.
What does it mean? City send Liverpool a message
Goal difference might yet decide the title and, in thrashing Chelsea, City gave themselves an ever larger advantage over Liverpool. For the Blues, this was their fourth consecutive loss away from home in all competitions, with the aggregate score in their most recent three Premier League trips reading 12-0.
Silva's energy drives City forward
Aguero provided City's cutting edge and took his 2019 tally to 10 goals in all competitions, but the platform for their dominance was built on Silva's boundless energy. With namesake David surprisingly on City's bench, Bernardo was brilliant.
Barkley's baffling error gifts Aguero his second
What Barkley was thinking when he headed the ball back towards his own goal from 20 yards out is difficult to understand. Chelsea already trailed 2-0 but setting up Aguero's second of the game ended any hope of a Blues fightback. Barkley looked out of his depth throughout and was unsurprisingly hooked early in the second half.
Key Opta stats:
- Chelsea suffered their heaviest defeat in any competition since losing 7-0 to Nottingham Forest in a top-flight match in April 1991.
- Sergio Aguero has scored eight Premier League goals for Manchester City in 2019 – double that of any other player in the competition and more than 11 other Premier League clubs have managed, including Chelsea (seven).
- Chelsea conceded four goals in consecutive away top-flight matches for the first time since December 1990.
- Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri suffered his heaviest ever league defeat as a manager, with this the first time he'd seen one of his teams concede more than four goals in a match.
- Aguero has become the fifth player to score hat-tricks in consecutive home Premier League games and the first since Didier Drogba in August 2010.
Chelsea will try to recover some pride when they head to Malmo in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening (Friday morning AEDT), with City at Newport County in the FA Cup two days later. In-form Manchester United are then the visitors at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening (Tuesday morning AEDT) in the fifth round of the cup.