Sadio Mane netted the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history as Southampton boosted their hopes of European qualification with a remarkable victory against Aston Villa.
Saints have made a mockery of those predicting a season of strife at St Mary's, with Ronald Koeman not only steering the club to calmer waters but new heights after replacing high-profile departures with some wily acquisitions.
Mane, a €13.5 million signing from Red Bull Salzburg, was among them and underlined his qualities with a record-breaking treble against Aston Villa, setting Southampton on course for a memorable 6-1 win.
The Senegal international's treble was wrapped up in two minutes and 56 seconds – the quickest in Premier League history, beating the record of four minutes and 33 seconds set by Liverpool's Robbie Fowler in 1994 against Arsenal.
The hat-trick was part of an incredible first half, in which fellow summer signing Shane Long continued by slotting home from close range before the Republic of Ireland international hit an incredible 40-yard effort to put Saints five up inside 38 minutes.
Christian Benteke pulled one back on the stroke of half-time with an exceptional header, but that did not save Tim Sherwood's FA Cup finalists trudging off at half-time to a chorus of boos.
Villa, who would have ensured survival with a win, improved after the break but were unable to keep Saints at bay, with Graziano Pelle volleying home to take Saints to 60 points – their best-ever Premier League return.
It was a timely win in the race for European football and one which would have been even better was it not for an awful, early decision from the linesman, with Pelle incredulous with the decision to chalk off his fourth-minute opener.
The Italy striker forced Shay Given into a save from an acute angle soon after, although Villa were proving a threat themselves and Benteke hit the side netting after meeting a lovely through ball.
It was a missed opportunity which Southampton capitalised on in record-breaking style.
Pelle flicked a long ball onto Mane and, having ridden Ron Vlaar’s challenge and showed good strength, got lucky after his initial effort was smothered by Given. The ball bounced off the pacy forward, allowing him slot into an empty net.
There was a sense of relief around St Mary’s after some poor performances of late, a run which soon became a distant memory.
Villa captain Vlaar, a reported Saints target, played an awful pass back to Given, who raced off his line to stop international colleague Long, only for the ball to fall free and Mane reacted quickly to net from an acute angle.
Remarkably, it did not stop there.
Confidence was soaring through the home side and Long burst down the left after some fine team play, cutting back for Mane to send a firm, placed strike into the Villa net.
It took just two minutes and 56 seconds for the Senegal international to complete a hat-trick, kicking off a memorable afternoon for Saints.
Given had to be alert to thwart James Ward-Prowse but was soon beaten again, with Mane again playing a key role. Showing quick feet and impressive vision, he put through Pelle through and the Villa goalkeeper’s save again fell kindly for the hosts as Long slotted home.
Sherwood slumped into his seat as Southampton ran amok, with things getting worse for Villa after Fabian Delph curled wide.
Long wrestled the ball away just inside the Villa half and burst forwards, before taking aim from 40 yards and beating Given with an incredible, curling strike.
He attempted to follow up his goal of the season contender soon after, although it was Villa who struck the next blow.
In first-half stoppage time, Leandro Bacuna whipped in a cross from the right and Benteke rose highest to head exceptionally past Paulo Gazzaniga.
That did little to improve the visiting support’s mood, though, as they booed their team off at half-time.
Unsurprisingly, the second half was a slightly calmer affair as Villa looked to avoid going the same way as Sunderland, blown away 8-0 here earlier in the season.
Alan Hutton curled over as Sherwood’s men tried to reduce the deficit, although at the other end Long was continuing to prove a nuisance and Given had to be alert to tip away a fine Ward-Prowse free-kick.
Substitute Maya Yoshida had an effort denied on the line and Nathaniel Clyne blazed over, before Saints finally grabbed a sixth.
With nine minutes remaining, Mane played a one-two on the right and fired over a cross which Pelle volleyed home from close range.
Gazzaniga twice denied Gabriel Agbonlahor late on as Saints ended their home campaign in style.