Mario Balotelli inspired the worst loss of Sir Alex Ferguson's career as Manchester City thrashed 10-man Manchester United 6-1 to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Balotelli -- who was forced to flee his home on Saturday following a bizarre late night blaze triggered by fireworks -- lit the fuse on City's title charge in their biggest win at Old Trafford for 85 years.
The 21-year-old Italian fired City ahead in the 22nd minute and added a second on the hour mark before Argentine striker Sergio Aguero netted a third in the 69th minute.
A brace of late goals from Edin Dzeko and a David Silva finish completed City's scoring on a memorable afternoon as United suffered their worst home defeat in Premier League history.
United -- who had Jonny Evans sent off two minutes into the second half -- scored a memorable late goal through Darren Fletcher but it was scant consolation after a chastening afternoon for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.
The defeat was United's first league loss at Old Trafford since April 2010 and left City in pole position at the top of the table.
"It's good but I think it's not so important that we won 6-1 but that we beat a fantastic team -- that is important," City boss Roberto Mancini said.
"I think that after the sending off it was easier but I think we were playing very well. The first 25 minutes United played very well, but they didn't have any chances."
Mancini was also pleased with the contribution of Balotelli, who repaid his faith in him with a two-goal performance.
"I'm happy for him because he scored two important goals, because he played well," said Mancini "I think it's important for our confidence to come here and beat United."
Stunned United boss Ferguson said the defeat was the worst of his career as a player or manager.
"It's the worst result in my history. I don't think I've ever lost a game 6-1 in my life," said Ferguson, who was scathing of his team's gung-ho approach even when down to 10 men and trailing in the second half.
"The sending off was a killer, it was a long way back after that with 10 men.
"After that they (United) kept attacking. It was crazy football. I thought with the experience we had with Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand we would be okay.
"Sometimes there needs to be common sense. It was a bad day there's no doubt about it. We were so open but we kept attacking. Unbelievable."
"It is a bad defeat. The impact will come from the embarrassment of the defeat. Without doubt there will be a response to that."
Balotelli's first came midway through the opening 45 minutes, the striker coolly stroking home from the edge of the area after neat play between Silva and James Milner.
The Â£24 million man celebrated his strike by removing his jersey to expose a t-shirt with the slogan -- "Why Always Me? -- which delighted his team-mates but irked referee Mark Clattenburg who promptly booked the forward.
A shellshocked United struggled to mount much of a response for the remainder of the half, and were limited to only a couple of long-range efforts from Anderson and Wayne Rooney from distance.
It got worse for City two minutes into the second half when United were reduced to 10 men after Evans hauled down Balotelli just outside the area.
The killer blow from Balotelli came on 60 minutes and again it owed everything to the ingenuity of Silva and Milner, the duo combining before Milner crossed to the far post for the Italian to make it 2-0.
More slick inter-play led to Aguero's goal in the 60th minute before Fletcher curled in a superb finish 10 minutes from time.
But with United increasingly ragged, City ramped up the pressure. Dzeko added a third on 90 minutes before Silva tapped in from close range and Dzeko bagged a second to make it 6-1.
In other matches Sunday, Arsenal captain Robin van Persie came to the rescue once again as the Gunners downed Stoke 3-1 at the Emirates.
Van Persie, came off the substitutes bench to score Arseal's second and third goals after Peter Crouch had levelled for Stoke following Gervinho's opener. The win saw Arsenal move up to seventh position.
At Craven Cottage, Everton scored twice in injury time to clinch a 3-1 victory over Fulham.
Everton took the lead through Royston Drenthe after only three minutes before substitute Bryan Ruiz levelled for the Cottagers in the 67th minute.
But with a draw looming Louis Saha made it 2-1 for Everton before Jack Rodwell made it 3-1 three minutes into stoppage time.