Chesterfield reinforced their League One play-off credentials in emphatic style with a 6-0 demolition of relegation-threatened Colchester United at the Proact Stadium.
The Spireites secured their biggest league win of the season, equaling the FA Cup first round win at Braintree, with a commanding and relentless performance on Tuesday.
Colchester were left chasing shadows on a night when Chesterfield sent out a warning to the rest of the division and a fifth win from their last six. And what a win it was.
The Spireites were at their free-flowing best after a nervy opening five minutes that saw Tommy Lee forced in to the first of three smart stops before the deadlock was broken.
Gary Roberts was the man to do it with a right-footed volley in the sixth minute - the first of three quick-fire goals for Chesterfield - followed by Sam Clucas’ brace.
Winger Dan Gardner, making his first start in a blue shirt since the 2-2 draw with Doncaster on January 31, was a thorn in Colchester’s side all game and got his rewards when Chris Lewington flapped.
And, like they had done in the first half, the Spireites scored two in as many minutes when Jimmy Ryan chipped in number five for arguably the goal of the night.
Roberts fittingly had the final say from the penalty spot six minutes from time after he was tripped by Lewington, who was fortunate to escape punishment from the referee.
On a night when everything went right for Chesterfield, results elsewhere served to strengthen their hold on sixth-place as Rochdale, Fleetwood Town and Bradford City all lost.
A draw at Barnsley on Saturday meant Chesterfield’s fate was firmly in their own hands in securing a top six finish with four games of the season to go, having established a four-point gap over Rochdale in seventh.
Ian Evatt recovered from a rib injury sustained during the first half at Oakwell and partnered Sam Hird in central defence, meaning there was just the one change for the hosts with Gardner in for Gboly Ariyibi.
Their opponents, however, are fighting to stay in the division - three points adrift of safety prior to kick-off - but have picked up of late with three wins from the last five, in a sequence which includes a victory over Barnsley.
Colchester made two changes from their defeat at Coventry with Matthew Briggs returning from a two-match ban in place of former Spireite Richard Brindley, who made ten appearances for the Blues at the back end of the 2012/13 season.
The other was forced. Keeper Lewington came in for only his second appearance of the season, the last came in a 4-0 defeat to Charlton at the Valley in the League Cup all the way back in August, in place of the injured Sam Walker (knee).
But it was his opposite number who was first to be tested when Gavin Massey picked up a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, side-stepped Drew Talbot and drilled a shot towards the bottom corner Tommy Lee palmed to safety diving to his right.
And it proved an important save as Chesterfield soon went ahead when Gardner played in Drew Talbot on the overlap, who crossed from the left found Roberts to take a touch and volley the ball home from ten yards with his right foot.
The Spireites’ lead was soon doubled when Gardner twisted one way then the next and pulled the ball back in similar fashion to the first goal for Clucas this time to sweep the ball high in to the roof of the net from eight yards out.
The home faithful hardly had time to catch their breath before Jay O’Shea regained the ball from the resulting kick-off and threaded a perfectly weighted ball through to Clucas, who expertly chipped the ball over an onrushing Lewington for his second in the space of 60 seconds.
Chesterfield looked as if they could score at will but the good vibes around the ground were temporarily put on hold when Talbot pulled up and immediately put his hand to his hamstring. He was replaced by Dan Jones at left-back.
Colchester were left shell-shocked by a first-half blitz from the Spireites but almost found a way back in to the game when skipper Alex Gilby made his way in to the penalty area and tried an angled shot in to the bottom corner only for Lee to make another vital stop.
Lee came to Chesterfield’s rescue once more five minutes before the break when Chris Porter, who had a brief loan spell at the Proact at the start of last season, was sent through one-on-one but the hosts’ No.1 stood tall and blocked.
Clucas, searching for a first-half hat-trick, forced Lewington in to a smart save diving to his left before the break before the referee signalled the end of the first 45 minutes that saw all four sides of the stadium applaud the Blues from the pitch.
And, with scores going the way of the Spireites, chants of Paul Cook’s Barmy Army rang around the Proact. Colchester made three changes at the break in an attempt to find inspiration that ultimately never came.
Gardner, who was a jack in the box all night, dragged a shot wide of the post, then had one cleared off the line by Tom Eastman before finally getting his just rewards with a swerving shot that Lewington flapped at on its way in.
As the big screen replayed Gardner’s first Chesterfield goal of the season, Ryan led the breakaway up to half-way, found Gardner on the left who played the charging midfielder back in and he didn’t disappoint with the finish, chipping Lewington for number five.
Roberts tried a curling shot in to the far corner before he was tripped in the penalty area by Lewington. He picked himself up, dusted himself down and smashed in the resulting spot kick to make it 6-0 to Paul Cook’s Spireites.
And, just to put the icing on the cake, Sheffield United lost 1-0 at Yeovil Town.
Chesterfield (4-2-3-1): Lee; Darikwa, Evatt, Hird, Talbot (Jones 25); Morsy, Ryan; Gardner (Ariyibi 62), O’Shea, Roberts; Clucas (Banks 75). Subs not used: Flatt, Raglan, Humphreys, Gnanduillet.
Colchester (4-4-2): Lewington; Wynter (Brindley HT), Khumalo, Eastman, Briggs; Massey, Moncur, Gilby (c), Lapslie (Szmodics HT); Porter, Murphy (Healey HT). Subs not used: Bransgrove, Bonne, Sembie-Ferris, Harney.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).