Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez each struck twice as Manchester City fired a warning to their critics with an emphatic win over Aston Villa.
The champions went ahead through David Silva at the Etihad Stadium and then clicked into gear after being awarded a controversial penalty early in the second half.
Aguero struck from the spot and added another while Tevez, who celebrated by pretending to drive after his Porsche was impounded by police, added his own penalty and a close-range finish.
Villa may rue the decision which led to City's second, apparently given for handball against Andreas Weimann, but they were well beaten in the end.
The performance of City in the latter stages, particularly that of Aguero and Tevez, took the talk away from the absence of Mario Balotelli.
The Italian, who played in Italy's friendly against France on Wednesday, did not even make the bench for his club side for a second successive week, although the striker was reportedly injured.
City controlled the early stages but did not create a serious chance aside from a scuffed Aguero shot which bounced awkwardly and Tevez headed over.
Maicon, initially seeing plenty of the ball after being preferred to Pablo Zabaleta, also found space to shoot but his effort went well wide.
After seeing very little of the ball, Villa finally launched a significant attack in the 12th minute but Vincent Kompany blocked a shot from Christian Benteke.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart's form may have been under scrutiny of late but there was nothing wrong with his reflexes as Kompany almost sliced a Matt Lowton cross into his own net.
Hart reacted brilliantly to produce a one-handed save and Kompany recovered to block Weimann's follow-up attempt, although a flag had been raised.
Hart then showed all of his class to keep out a header from Benteke after the Belgian outjumped Matija Nastasic to reach an Enda Stevens cross.
City interrupted Villa's good spell as Yaya Toure drove forward and Samir Nasri teed up Gael Clichy but Brad Guzan was equal to the Frenchman's shot.
At the other end Maicon then got in the way of a Gabriel Agbonlahor shot but City then began to reassert themselves.
Ron Vlaar blocked from Toure, Tevez dragged an effort wide and Nasri shot straight at Guzan.
Toure missed the target with a header from a Nasri corner and Guzan kept out a low attempt from Tevez that appeared destined for the bottom corner.
There was little quality about City's opener when it arrived two minutes before the interval.
Villa failed to deal with a Nasri corner but Tevez could not connect properly with a shot. The ball bobbled dangerously inside the goal area and Silva reacted quickest to tuck home from close range.
Silva almost added a second before the break but Guzan saved with his feet.
City started the second half brightly, with Tevez shooting across goal and Silva playing in Aguero with a fine ball.
Aguero shaped to shoot but was perhaps punished for a split-second's hesitation as Vlaar denied him with a fine tackle.
Aguero was not to be denied for long but plenty of controversy surrounded his penalty as the assistant referee flagged for an offence as Silva swung in a corner.
What it was awarded for was not immediately apparent, not least to the majority of the Villa team who surrounded the officials.
Replays suggested Weimann may have handled the cross but the debate continued long after Aguero had dispatched the spot-kick.
Villa felt wronged and were unable to recover.
There was little debate over the second penalty they conceded for handball as Barry Bannan was penalised after 65 minutes.
Tevez sent Guzan the wrong way and ran off pretending to be at the wheel of a car.
Things got worse almost immediately for Villa as Hart launched a counter-attack and Aguero burst into the area and finished inside the near post from a tight angle.
It proved his last involvement as Edin Dzeko came off the bench and the Bosnian was soon in the action as City piled on the misery for the visitors.
Dzeko found Nasri and the Frenchman's ball across the area was tapped in from six yards by Tevez, who repeated his earlier car celebration.
Villa were well beaten but City continued to press for a sixth and substitute Scott Sinclair twice narrowly missed the target in a strong finish.