In-form Maxi inspires Reds rout
Liverpool may be about to be knocked off their perch by Manchester United but they showed they might just mount a serious challenge for a 19th league title of their own next season by destroying Fulham 5-2.
Maxi Rodriguez completed his second hat-trick in the last three games, with Dirk Kuyt making it 12 goals in his last 13 matches for club and country, while Luis Suarez was also on target.
The Cottagers threatened a comeback when Mousa Dembele pulled a goal back but they were 5-1 down before Steve Sidwell fired a late consolation.
The win moved Liverpool back above Tottenham into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League and left Fulham stunned as they paid the price for a horrible start.
Fulham's first blunder came from Aaron Hughes, whose slip let in Suarez, with Carlos Salcido and Mark Schwarzer making a hash of the striker's left-wing cross and allowing Maxi to thread the ball home.
The shocking defending continued in the seventh minute as Chris Baird played Glen Johnson onside and the full-back crossed for Maxi to volley in from close range at the far post.
A Schwarzer howler made it 3-0, with Kuyt's weak shot from just inside the penalty area squirming underneath him at the near post.
Fulham pulled a goal back in the 57th minute when Dembele curled home. But Maxi struck again with 20 minutes remaining, completing his hat-trick with a stunning 25-yard drive.
Suarez made it another five-star performance for Kenny Dalglish's men when he raced onto Jonjo Shelvey's through-ball and brilliantly rounded Schwarzer to prod home the goal his performance deserved.
Fulham kept going and, with just under five minutes left, Sidwell cracked a 20-yard half-volley into the top corner but the damage had already been done.