Premier League round-up
Reds rampant, Toon turgid, City crushed, Royals revitalised
On a weekend in which FA Cup exertions restricted Saturday's Premier League action to just three games, Newcastle's misery continued with a crushing away defeat to Liverpool, Reading moved out of the relegation zone and Fulham grabbed a late point at Blackburn.
Romantics up and down the country would have prayed Kevin Keegan's second spell at the Newcastle helm would finally be ignited against the club he served with distinction as a player, and with whom he enjoyed some titanic battles as a manager.
On the contrary, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres made a compelling case for the notion romance is dead as they combined to scintillating effect to inspire Liverpool to a 3-0 victory.
The Madejski Stadium has not been a happy camp of late as Reading have plummeted down the table but keen to ensure last week's win against Middlesbrough was not a flash in the pan, they again impressed in seeing off Manchester City 2-0 thanks to efforts from Shane Long and Dave Kitson.
While Reading look as if they could have just enough to stay up, Fulham remain firmly entrenched in the bottom three despite a battling point at Blackburn.
Liverpool kicked off at Anfield looking to build on a midweek thumping of West Ham and by half-time it was job done as they went into the interval two goals to the good.
Keegan has spoken this week of bringing genuine excitement to the club next season; on this showing a promotion push from the Championship could be just the ticket.
While there was nothing inherently wrong about Newcastle's performance, there was precious right with it either.
In truth Liverpool had been reduced to half chances prior to Jermaine Pennant's hugely fortuitous opener, when Jose Enrique's attempted clearance cannoned off the Liverpool winger, who in trying to get out of the way, inadvertently looped the ball over a stranded Steve Harper.
If Liverpool's first owed much to luck the second, in first half injury-time, was near as majestic as is possible on a football field. Liverpool countered with a Torres nod into the path of Gerrard on the halfway line. The Reds skipper drove forward before laying an inch-perfect pass into the feet of his team-mate. The Spaniard let the ball run across him via a gloriously precocious dummy before sharply stabbing into a goal left vacated by a flummoxed Harper.
Mere minutes had elapsed in the second period when Liverpool put the game to bed; Keegan wished he'd never left his.
As Liverpool broke to expose a horribly square Newcastle back four, Torres held possession before sliding a beautifully weighted pass to Gerrard, who gave it the finish it deserved with a sublime dink.
At Reading, Vedran Corluka demonstrated why he is a defender and not a striker when midway through the first half the Manchester City man somehow contrived to fire over when free no more than four yards from goal.
City's frustrations were exacerbated when on the half-hour mark Richard Dunne was stretchered off with a gashed shin following an innocuous looking challenge on Republic of Ireland team-mate Stephen Hunt.
Reading's best chances fell to Long, who headed an inch or so wide, and Marek Matejovsky - whose drive from distance was well saved by an unsighted Joe Hart.
The deadlock was broken in the 62nd minute when after Kevin Doyle had got the better of a dawdling Michael Ball down the left, his low cross was drilled home by the lively Long.
And it got no better for City as Royals substitute Kitson waltzed past some lethargic challenges to net a late second.
At Ewood Park, Blackburn's bid to gatecrash the European places suffered a blow as they conceded a last gasp equaliser to Fulham.
An evenly fought first period ended goalless and it was only the introduction of Jason Roberts that turned the game in Rovers' favour. The big front-man was summoned from the bench in the 57th minute and by the 59th he had delivered the cross that Morten Gamst Pedersen dispatched with a thumping header.
With Fulham looking destined to taste yet another defeat, their talisman Jimmy Bullard curled a majestic but contentiously awarded free-kick around Blackburn's wall that gave Brad Friedel not a prayer.