Nottingham Forest's position at the top of League One looked like a mirage as Scunthorpe thoroughly outplayed Colin Calderwood's side in front of the biggest crowd of the season at the City Ground and a live television audience.
A smooth, well-organised and authoritative performance from the visitors, clocking up a sixth win in eight games to go second, left Forest in a state of shock as Scunthorpe became the biggest winners on Brian Clough's old stamping ground since Manchester United scored eight here in 1999.
This was not quite humiliation on that scale but came as a thunderous blow to the idea that promotion would be straightforward for Forest after last season's late run saw them pipped for a play-off place only in the last week.
It was more painful because Scunthorpe's neat passing and constant movement meant they resembled a classic Forest team more than the home side whose tendency to thump long balls in the vague direction of their strikers was frustrating to watch.
The Scunthorpe manager, Brian Laws, is a Clough disciple, having won two League Cup winners' medals during a six-year spell with the club in the late 80s and early 90s.
He said: "It means a lot for me to win here and the lads can be very proud with the way they played," he said. "The Forest of old were a classic counter-attacking team and I think we reflect some of that in the way we play. That is what we are good at and we have players with a bit of venom who can make the counter-attacking game work."
None more so than strikers Billy Sharp and Andrew Keogh, two 20-year-olds who extended the remarkable statistics of their embryonic partnership to 33 goals in 33 matches by grabbing one each as Forest revealed alarming lapses in defence. Yesterday's exposure will only bring more interest from clubs keen to take the pair to a higher level, although Laws insisted his club will not be rushed into selling.
"They are two exciting young players who will create chances and put them away but while we are a small club we are not desperate to sell and when they do go, which they will eventually, it will be when it is right for them and us," he said.
Forest went behind after 28 minutes when the first of their defensive misdemeanours allowed Cleveland Taylor time and space to beat goalkeeper Paul Smith easily from 10 yards. Seven minutes later, Sharp moved unchecked into the Forest box and released a pass that Keogh stroked home.
Ian Morris, taking advantage of more slack marking, fired home Scunthorpe's third after 66 minutes, with Keogh and Sharp again central to the build-up. Sharp added the fourth when he ran on to Ian Breckin's misdirected header in stoppage time.
"It was a horror show," admitted Calderwood. "We didn't show anyone watching any of the things we are good at."Reuse content