Liverpool produced arguably one of the best 20 minutes seen at Anfield as they blew Arsenal away to give their own title hopes a shot in the arm.Brendan Rodgers' side were 4-0 up before the visitors knew what had hit them, and they were incapable of finding a response.
The irony was none of the goals came from the league's leading striker Luis Suarez, whom Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger tried to sign in the summer with a cheeky £40,000,001 bid.
Martin Skrtel and Raheem Stirling each netted twice - the defender claiming the opener after just 52 seconds - and Daniel Sturridge also chipped in as the hosts recorded their first home league win over the north London club since March 2007.
Arsenal, who could only manage a second-half penalty from Mikael Arteta in response, will have little time to lick their wounds with Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, quickly followed by Liverpool in the FA Cup and then Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Wenger's team arrived on Merseyside as league leaders and with the joint-best away record in the top flight, but the dismantling of that began inside a minute. Per Mertesacker fouled Suarez wide on Liverpool's left and Steven Gerrard's inswinging free-kick was turned in six yards out by Skrtel and the goal was awarded despite there being a suspicion of offside about it.
Full-back Jon Flanagan almost made it 2-0 on the end of a flowing move down the right involving the industrious Jordan Henderson and Sturridge but from Gerrard's resulting corner, in the 10th minute, Skrtel flicked in a header over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the line.
Liverpool continued rampaging forward, Arsenal seemingly powerless to stop them, and when Suarez played Sturridge in the England striker should have done better with his chip over the advancing Wojciech Szczesny which drifted wide.
Suarez smacked a sumptuous volley against a post from another Gerrard corner, with Kolo Toure unable to divert the rebound into the empty net, but there was no respite. Sterling got to Suarez's cross ahead of Sturridge to steer home Liverpool's third after 16 minutes, but the latter was not to be denied four minutes later.
A trademark Philippe Coutinho through ball sent the striker scampering between the Arsenal centre-backs and a confident clip past Szczesny got its just reward.
The visitors created just two chances in the first half. One was the result of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet inexplicably punching a clearance straight at Jon Flanagan - Skrtel cleared the danger from Nacho Monreal - and the other a Mertesacker header flashed across goal. Any fanciful hopes Arsenal had of recreating the thrilling Andrey Arshavin-inspired 4-4 draw between the sides here in 2009, which contributed to Liverpool not winning the title, were ended 10 minutes into the second half.
Toure's ball over the top was seized upon by Sterling, who reacted quickest when his shot rebounded back off Szczesny. Try as he might, Suarez could nor get on the scoresheet, his 35-yard free-kick looking destined for the top corner until Szczesny tipped it over.
Arteta converted a penalty after Gerrard's foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain and was denied by Mignolet's low save from his free-kick, but the game had been lost long before that.