Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao put bottom-of-the-table Deportivo La Coruna to the sword with an incredible five-goal haul in a crushing 6-0 home win in La Liga today.
The prolific Colombian, known as "the tiger" and coveted by several of Europe's richest clubs, took his tally for the season to 16 in 15 matches as Atletico restored their five-point lead over chasing city rivals Real Madrid.
The thumping victory at a festive Calderon also lifted them to within three points of unbeaten leaders Barcelona, who play at Real Betis.
Jose Mourinho's Real side twice had to come from behind to scrape a 3-2 win at Real Valladolid yesterday which closed the gap to Atletico, whom they beat 2-0 at the Bernabeu last weekend, to two points overnight.
However, Atletico responded by romping to a 12th win in 15 outings this term against a Depor side in danger of dropping straight back down to the second division after winning promotion at the end of last season.
Atletico forward Diego Costa made amends for their Europa League red card when he opened the scoring with a header from Koke's corner in the 23rd minute.
Depor midfielder Juan Valeron headed against a post four minutes later but Atletico doubled their lead on their next foray forward when Falcao sped on to Koke's pass and fired a fizzing low drive into the corner of the net.
A quick throw on the left three minutes before the break set up the 26-year-old for his second and he crashed a dipping shot past Daniel Aranzubia from the corner of the penalty area.
Falcao then won and converted a penalty in the 64th minute to complete his hat-trick, flung himself to head Arda Turan's deflected shot over the line and netted a clinical fifth in the 71st minute.
He is the first player to score five goals in a La Liga match since Fernando Morientes for Real Madrid against Las Palmas in 2002.
Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record for the most goals in a calendar year of 85 firmly in his sights at Betis.
The Argentine forward, who had an injury scare when he bruised a knee in Wednesday's Champions League match at home to Benfica but is in the starting 11 for the game in Seville, has scored 84 for club and country in 2012.
The 25-year-old will also become Barca's top scorer in La Liga with a goal at Betis's Benito Villamarin stadium after drawing level on 190 goals with Cesar Rodriguez with a double against Athletic Bilbao last weekend.
Real Mallorca continued their plunge towards the relegation places when they crashed to a 4-0 reverse at Levante, the Balearic Islanders' eighth defeat in a winless run of 10 games.
Obafemi Martins put Levante ahead just before halftime and David Navarro, Ruben Garcia and Vicente Iborra scored in the space of 10 minutes early in the second half.
Levante, through to the last 32 of the Europa League, are sixth on 24 points, with Mallorca 17th on 13.
Struggling Athletic Bilbao claimed only a fifth victory of the season when they won 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Aritz Aduriz's 33rd-minute header settled the game at the San Mames and lifted Bilbao to 13th on 18 points. Celta are in 15th on 15.
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