Fulham 6 West Bromwich Albion 1
It's hard to find any crumbs of comfort after a mauling like this. But the only positive to take from West Bromwich Albion's worst defeat in almost three years was that they surely cannot play any worse.
An almost clueless display of defending earned Albion their biggest hammering since the 6-0 home beating by Liverpool in April 2003. It was on the cards almost from the moment when Heidar Helguson scored the first of his two goals in only the fourth minute.
Admittedly, it could have been a different story had Helguson been sent off for the reckless first-half challenge on Tomasz Kuszczak that left the goalkeeper with a suspected cracked rib. This fixture has had five red cards in the last two seasons.
Instead, Helguson was still on the park (and, perhaps, forgotten about by Albion's defence) and arrived at the far post to head Fulham's crucial second goal just before half-time.
Only two places and three points had separated the two sides at start of play but, by the end, that small gulf had become a chasm as Fulham maintained this season's imperious home form.
Of the Cottagers' haul of 32 Premiership points, 29 have been won in West London. Fulham's biggest win since last season's final-day walloping of Norwich City (the result that kept Albion up) had Fulham old boys Geoff Horsfield and Junichi Inamoto in the visitors' line-up.
Albion took fewer than four minutes to fall behind. It was classic route one stuff by the Cottagers but there will be an inquest on the Albion training ground as to how they could be so easily opened up by goalkeeper Antti Niemi's long punt and Brian McBride's flick-on.
It left Helguson shoulder-to-shoulder with a flat-footed Curtis Davies and the Fulham striker reacted the sharper to bring the ball under control before exploding a right-foot volley past an exposed Kuszczak.
A minute later, Carlos Bocanegra steered his header straight at Kuszczak but Albion recovered their composure to remain competitive.
Nigel Quashie's shot was already going over the bar when Niemi helped it on its way with the faintest of tips. Quashie then brought the best out of his old Southampton team-mate with a fierce, low shot that was too hot for the Finn to handle.
The rest of the half was a rather niggly affair, the seeds of which were sown by referee Graham Poll's interpretation of what constituted a caution.
Predictably enough, Poll was quite happy to whip out his notebook when Ronnie Wallwork disputed a free-kick given for Martin Albrechtsen's challenge on Luis Boa Morte. How Helguson did not receive at least a yellow card for that unnecessarily late slide on Kuszczak was astonishing, though.
Helguson can thank his lucky stars that Albion debutant Williams Martinez had the lightness of foot to dance out of the way when this walking Icelandic geyser steamed in with a ridiculous two-footed second-half lunge.
No wonder Fulham manager Chris Coleman should later choose to remove him from the fray, even with more than half-an-hour to go and Helguson on a hat-trick.
Albion benefited from Mr Poll's usual inconsistency when Kevin Campbell left his foot in with a late challenge on Wayne Bridge, then appeared to elbow Bocanegra, but the friendly grin of the ever-genial Albion captain was enough to have him let off.
Fulham went 2-0 up, delivering a real kick in the stomach just before half-time. Again, the marking was poor as Simon Elliott floated in a free-kick from the left and Helguson appeared from behind Gaardsoe to head home.
Robson's response was to make a double half-time substitution. He withdrew the unhappy Gaardsoe to give Martinez his debut and also removed Geoff Horsfield, to bring on Nathan Ellington.
Albion needed to score the first goal after the break. That illusion took barely two minutes to be shattered.
Steed Malbranque's superb lofted ball picked out Tomasz Radzinski's run down the centre-forward channel. When the Canadian brought the ball down in one touch, as Kuszczak advanced, he coolly lifted it past him. It was Radzinski's first, overdue, league goal of the season, prompting him to remove his shirt in celebration. The delighted Mr Poll did not miss that one. Straight in the book - what a crazy, crazy rule.
Luck then played a part for the fourth goal when Helguson's attempted curler, clearly going wide, took a huge deflection off Davies to wrong-foot Kuszczak and roll inside his right post.
Kuszczak could bear the pain of his first-half collision with Helguson no longer. Off he trooped, to be replaced by Russell Hoult, making his first Premiership appearance since he was injured and replaced by Kuszczak after 20 minutes in last term's penultimate game at Old Trafford.
Fulham substitute Collins John scored twice in the last ten minutes, each time being set up by Radzinski. In between came a consolation goal for Campbell - his first away from The Hawthorns. The look of apathy on the skipper's face as he trudged back to the halfway line told how meaningless it was in the wake of such a humiliation.