Sunderland 4-1 Chelsea

Gianluca Vialli had said earlier this week that if his side could not win at the Stadium of Light then they could wave goodbye to their hopes of the Premiership title.

Well, the cheerios and farewells will be ringing round the King's Road tonight - if anyone dares show their face - as the Blues crumbled to a humiliating defeat at the hands of a rampant Sunderland.

Much has been made of the hammering that Peter Reid's men took at the hands of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, but if ever proof were needed of their improvement since then this was it. Make no mistake, this was a gubbing of epic proportions.

The Mackems pressed and pressed all over the park, as Vialli warned that they would, and the Blue balloon duly burst with an almighty bang, as Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn wreaked havoc with a brace apiece in an astonishing opening period. The result was Chelsea's record defeat since the inception of the Premier League, but the damage may run much deeper then that.

The home side got off to the most perfect of perfect starts when they struck with just 45 seconds on the clock. Eric Roy jinked his way through the left-hand side of the Chelsea defence, who were giving a passable impression of training ground cones, apart from Desailly who tripped over a colleague's heels as he scurried back to cover, and the Frenchman cut the ball along the six yard line where Niall Quinn had the simplest of tasks to steer a close-range left-foot shot past Ed de Goey for his seventh of the season.

The shell-shocked Londoners struggled to match the physical intensity of their hosts and Desailly was fortunate to escape two minutes later when his pass out of defence was intercepted by Kevin Phillips, but the Frenchman managed to recover as the striker prepared to run in on goal.

De Goey had an uncomfortable moment with 14 minutes gone when he slipped as he prepared to receive Hogh's back pass, but that was nothing in comparison to the humiliation that was to come.

Shortly after Tore Andre Flo hit the side-netting with a left-foot strike, the ball broke to Kevin Phillips 27 yards out. Without breaking stride, he unleashed a venomous right-foot volley that soared, curled and before nestling in the corner of the net before the hapless de Goey had hit the ground after his athletic, but totally pointless, dive.

Stefan Schwarz somehow got in a low cross from the left which de Goey failed to hold and Phillips and the impressive Paul Thirlwell, who was making his Premiership debut, both had shots blocked in an almighty scramble.

But the floodgates were buckling, and they duly burst open with two more goals in as many minutes. De Goey did brilliantly to palm away Quinn's right-foot shot from eight yards but could do nothing as Phillips followed up at the far post to hook in his second of the game.

With Chelsea reeling, their battered defence failed to clear Nicky Summerbee's corner and Quinn capped a towering first-half display to lash the ball into the net from the left-hand side of the box.

Thrashing doesn't even come close.

No prizes for guessing that the second period struggled to match the first for excitement, but at least Chelsea managed to stem the tide. Flo burst through the middle, but the ball stuck under his feet and Tommy Sorensen was equal to the task when the shot came in.

Celestine Babayaro then fed Gustavo Poyet on the edge of the area but his left-foot strike on the swivel slid wide. However, the Uruguayan made ammends ten minutes from time when the Sunderland defence failed to deal with Zola's corner, and Poyet lashed in his sixth of the season.

Phillips suddenly realised that time was running out if he wanted to grab a hat-trick and twice brought the best out of de Goey, the Dutchman denying him first from distance with a flying stop and then from close range with his knees, after sublime skills from the England striker.

However, it is unlikely that he will shed many tears as he reflects on a quite breathtaking opening 45 minutes, although whether there will be such reticence in the away dressing room remains open to doubt.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Craddock, Williams, Gray, Summerbee (Holloway 84), Thirlwell, Roy, Schwarz, Quinn, Phillips.
Subs Not Used: Oster, Marriott, Reddy, Butler.
Goals: Quinn 1, Phillips 23, 36, Quinn 38.

Chelsea: De Goey, Lambourde, Babayaro, Desailly (Terry 46), Hogh, Poyet, Wise (Wolleaston 77), Morris, Harley (Goldbaek 46), Zola, Flo.
Subs Not Used: Petrescu, Cudicini.
Booked: Babayaro, Harley.
Goals: Poyet 81.
Att: 41,377
Ref: S Dunn (Bristol).