AFC Rushden & Diamonds sent a clear message to the rest of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central with an unmerciless dismantling of rock-bottom North Greenford United at a perishing Dog & Duck.
On this day it was 8-1, on another it could have been well into double figures as Diamonds showed just how big the gap between top and bottom in this division is.
There will be those who will say, and maybe they are right, ‘well look at the standard of opposition’. But, as ever, you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Andy Peaks’ side were in no mood to take it easy.
The run-in for promotion really does start now and the demolition job sent Diamonds back to the top of the pile after leaders Chalfont St Peter’s clash at Petersfield Town had been called off.
Peaks’ team are in pole position and, if this performance is anything to go by, they could be difficult to dislodged in the weeks to come.
The Diamonds boss made his move in the transfer market ahead of the game with strikers Nabil Shariff and Jon Stevenson arriving.
With Shariff absent due to a chest infection, Stevenson did make his debut and immediately brought an extra dimension to the way Diamonds attacked.
In fact, there were good performances all over the pitch.
Andy Hall, who has had to wait for his chance, was clinical in completing a hat-trick and Shawn Richards was the best player on the pitch as he opened the scoring and then went on to have a hand in a few others as he terrorised both visiting full-backs at one time or another.
Stevenson forced Josh Kensit into his first save after just three minutes and the goalkeeper denied the frontman and then Hall from the rebound soon after.
Richards had a shot cleared off the line by Samuel Addae and when Delroy Gordon headed straight at Kensit the anxiety levels grew somewhat as Diamonds seeked a way through.
Glen Yala sent a shot just wide at the other end but the deadlock was finally broken on 27 minutes when, after Tom Lorraine had been chopped down, Richards stepped up and sent a 20-yard free-kick into the bottom corner.
Brad Harris almost doubled the advantage when his effort was deflected just wide but Hall did just that when he exchanged passes with Lorraine and then beat Kensit on the angle.
The game was over when Lorraine applied the finishing touch after Liam Dolman had flicked on a Richards corner and Stevenson and Lorraine even went close to a fourth before the half-time whistle.
It had been relentless from the hosts but there were no signs that they would slow down.
Another magnificent Richards free-kick struck the inside of the post and when the ball fell to Lorraine he somehow struck the other upright with the goal at his mercy.
North Greenford’s task was made even harder when Jessy Yoboue, somewhat harshly, saw red for a late challenge on Lorraine which sparked a bit of handbags between the two sets of players.
Lorraine forced Kensit into a save from the resulting free-kick, again delivered by Richards.
But it was Hall who made it 4-0 when, you guessed it, Richards stood up a cross to the far post and his fellow winger made no mistake with a crisp half-volley.
That was the signal for Peaks to rest legs and make changes and it meant a welcome return from injury for defender Jack Ashton - not that he had a great deal to do.
The pressure continued at the other end and Stevenson grabbed a deserved goal with a good finish across Kensit for 5-0 before Dolman got in on the act when rising above the goalkeeper to head home number six.
Hall completed a notable treble when hammering home the seventh but a lapse in concentration cost the hosts a clean sheet when substitute Sandro Costa nipped in ahead of Matt Finlay before scoring into an empty net.
However, Diamonds had the final say when another substitute, Lewis Leslie, fired home after Lorraine’s shot had been blocked.
It was brutal, it was devastating and it was a highly-impressive performance that showed Diamonds have a real killer instinct about them.
And if you are to win a title, that sort of attribute can’t be a bad thing...
Diamonds: Finlay; Wilkinson (sub Ashton, 68 mins), Gordon, Dolman, Kennedy; Hall, Harris, Bunting (sub Leslie, 68 mins), Richards (sub Hoban, 80 mins); Lorraine, Stevenson. Subs not used: Vitue, Berwick.
North Greenford: Kensit; Addae, Grant (sub James, 14 mins), Bennell, Cain; Riggs, Yoboue, Kanjor, Mitchell; Conner, Yala (sub Costa, 63 mins). Subs not used: McAlinden, Nzuruba.
Referee: Darren Russell.
Goals: Richards (27 mins, 1-0), Hall (35 mins, 2-0), Lorraine (40 mins, 3-0), Hall (65 mins, 4-0), Stevenson (76 mins, 5-0), Dolman (84 mins, 6-0), Hall (88 mins, 7-0), Costa (89 mins, 7-1), Leslie (90 mins, 8-1).
Bookings: Gordon, Kanjor (both fouls), Hall, Kennedy (unsporting behaviour).
Sending-off: Yoboue (serious foul play).