The only reason Millwall were top, having taken only two points from the last 15, was because Sunderland, one place behind them, were one of the league's lowest scorers. Were. Once they passed two for the first time this season there was nothing Millwall's frail defence could do to stop the rout.
Craig Russell's four goals will grab the headlines, but true to form for a team with no stand-out stars, they took it in turns to set him up.
His first was the best. It came after the half-hour with Sunderland already leading through Martin Scott's second penalty in successive games. From a Millwall corner, Martin Smith broke away at pace and faced by three defenders waited for Russell to race into position. The striker, who has been unable to hold down a regular first-team place, finished from the edge of the area.
After half-time, the unsettled Northern Ireland striker Phil Gray - playing because of David Kelly's injury - headed a third and then Russell picked up two more from crosses from Gray and Smith. At least for his fourth, right on the final whistle, he did the donkey work himself turning in the area and slipping the ball past Kasey Keller.
Millwall had no reply. They played three up front but could only offer Uwe Fuchs's bruising physical presence. The only time the German threatened, Richard Ord - the manager's man-of-the-match - cleared off the line.
In midfield, Steve Agnew stamped on any signs of Alex Rae's creativity, and with Michael Gray, Russell and Smith tearing like lions at Millwall, the pickings were rich.
"We've been threatening a good performance like that so it was unfortunate for Millwall," said the Sunderland manager, Peter Reid, but he was really itching to get at Newcastle and Middlesbrough.Reuse content