Ollie Watkins made his case for an England call-up with a hat-trick as Aston Villa powered to a 6-1 demolition of Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.
Watkins struck twice in the first half before Pervis Estupinan’s own goal put the hosts three up at Villa Park.
Ansu Fati got one back for Brighton in the second half, but Watkins completed his treble to underline his international credentials.
Watkins has seven England caps but missed out on a place in their most recent squad in September.
With England manager Gareth Southgate watching from the stands, Watkins put himself in contention to be named next week in the squad for the Three Lions’ October matches against Australia and Italy.
Jacob Ramsey and Douglas Luiz scored Villa’s fifth and sixth goals in the closing stages to cap their biggest win this season.
Villa’s players have criticised the club’s new shirts this season, saying they are uncomfortable because they retain too much sweat.
But Unai Emery’s team barely had to break sweat to see off lacklustre Brighton, who were blown away by a blistering spell of three goals in 12 minutes in the first half at Villa Park.
Villa have won five of their first seven league matches and sit third in the table ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures.
Underlining the impressive work done by Emery since he replaced the sacked Steven Gerrard, Villa’s tally of 58 points this year is also bettered only by Manchester City’s 71.
Villa have won 10 successive matches at home and harbour genuine ambitions of challenging for a top four finish.
After winning five of their opening six league matches, fourth placed Brighton have endured a week to forget, losing in the League Cup at struggling Chelsea before their capitulation against Villa.
Villa struck after just 14 minutes as John McGinn’s pin-point pass released Matty Cash down the right flank.
Cash’s low cross was perfectly weighted for Watkins to slot home from inside the six-yard box for his fifth goal this season.
The 27-year-old didn’t have to wait long to nab his second as he conjured a fine solo goal in the 21st minute.
Running onto Moussa Diaby’s pass, Watkins cleverly cut back inside two Brighton defenders as he surged into the penalty area before arrowing a low shot past Jason Steele.
Inspired by Watkins, Villa were running riot and the striker was involved again when they bagged their third goal in the 26th minute.
This time, Watkins was the creator as he found Diaby just inside the area, with the forward’s first effort saved by Steele before his scuffed follow-up took a fortuitous deflection off Estupinan as it trickled into the net.
Fati reduced the deficit in the 50th minute, the on-loan Barcelona forward applying a close-range finish to Joao Pedro’s cross before a lengthy VAR check for offside finally awarded the goal.
But Watkins killed off any hopes of a shock Brighton fightback when his deflected shot looped over Steele from the edge of the area in the 65th minute.
With Brighton in tatters, Ramsey slotted a fine finish into the far corner from 18 yards in the 85th minute.
There was still time for Luiz to put further gloss on Villa’s dynamic display when he side-footed home from the edge of the area in the final seconds.