Kettering Town can officially call themselves ‘champions-elect’ after a five-star display saw them move 12 points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central.
The Poppies destroyed Egham Town 5-0 at Latimer Park with all the damage being done in a devastating first-half display.
Clearly in no mood to waste their game in hand on second-placed Bedworth United, Kettering set about their task in the manner of champions - a tag that will surely now come sooner rather than later.
Joint-manager Scott Machin had called for a big improvement following the 0-0 draw with Marlow at the weekend and boy, did he get it.
The decisive victory made it eight wins from the last nine matches, 25 points from a possible 27 and just at the right time while some of their rivals have slipped up along the way.
As expected, there were changes to the squad following that dour draw last weekend.
David Kolodynski, who was outstanding all game, partnered Elliot Sandy in attack while Gary Mulligan started in midfield as Tommy Hull switched to right-back to replace the rested James Clifton.
And from the first few minutes, it was clear that the Poppies were in the mood.
Just two minutes had passed by when captain Steve Kinniburgh’s cross was handled by Danny Williamson in the penalty area and Sandy stepped up to send Jamie Cunningham the wrong way from the spot.
From there, it was total dominance. Egham were chasing shadows at times and, after Mulligan’s shot had been deflected over the bar, the Poppies had their second from the resulting corner.
James Jepson, a real warrior in the midfield in recent weeks, swung it in and Brett Solkhon expertly headed home despite being off balance.
Jordan Carter shot narrowly wide as Egham made a brief appearance in the Kettering half.
But the best was yet to come from the hosts as Sandy robbed an opponent and played in Kolodynski who calmly lobbed Cunningham for number three.
The frontman turned provider as the charge continued and he held the ball up well before feeding Andy Hall who made no mistake with a shot that found its way in with the aid of the far post.
The returning Richard Knight kept out Bajram Pashat’s free-kick at the other end but Kettering made it five before the break.
Again, Kolodynski was the creator as he flicked the ball over his head into the path of Hall who beat Cunningham with a fierce half-volley at his near post.
With the damage done, a low-key second half may have been expected. But it was only the brilliance of Cunningham that prevented the Poppies from winning by even more.
He saved from Hall early in the second period before Solkhon nodded just off target.
Josh Moreman was unlucky with a crisp volley that just beat the far post while Cunningham was at it again as he saved Sandy’s header while Hall, also with his head, saw an effort blocked on the line from the corner that followed.
As the game wore on, it gradually died down as the Poppies took the chance to rest up more bodies ahead of Saturday’s clash with Hanwell Town.
The hosts were forced to play the last 10 minutes with 10 men after one of the three substitutes already used, Rebus Richard-Noel, was helped off after a nasty clash of heads.
Hull had a late header tipped over by Cunningham while Knight saved well from Danny Basett before Ben Hunter’s effort for the visitors was ruled out for offside.
In the end, no more goals came but no more were needed.
It’s been a long road for the Poppies, who have had to take their share of unwarranted criticism despite having dominated the league for the majority of the season.
But the finishing line is now in sight. It’s time for them to go and finish the job.
And, if they play like this for the remainder of the campaign, that job will be finished sooner rather than later.
Poppies: Knight; Hull, Solkhon, Lee, Kinniburgh (sub Robinson, 57 mins); Hall, Jepson (sub Gooding, 68 mins), Mulligan, Moreman (sub Richard-Noel, 65 mins); Sandy, Kolodynski. Subs not used: McAlindon, Ogbonna.
Egham: Cunningham; Williamson, Salami, Noville, Hunter; Matthew, Carter (sub Goultor, 75 mins), Frost (sub Jasson, 59 mins), Pashat, Masemba (sub Gutteridge, 68 mins); Basett. Sub not used: Norris.
Referee: Robert Cairns.
Goals: Sandy pen (3 mins, 1-0), Solkhon (10 mins, 2-0), Kolodynski (15 mins, 3-0), Hall (35 mins, 4-0), Hall (43 mins, 5-0).
Bookings: Kolodynski (dissent), Jasson (foul).