Ruud van Nistelrooy, the target of Arsenal's wrath a week ago, was in the spotlight for the right reason on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick in Manchester United's 4-1 premier league win at Leicester City.
The Dutchman's treble, after Roy Keane's opener, took United to 16 points, one behind Arsenal, who beat Newcastle United 3-2 at Highbury on Friday with two goals for Thierry Henry -- and no bookings.
Chelsea are also on 16, second on goals scored, after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's 43rd-minute goal saw them to a laboured 1-0 home win over hard-working Aston Villa.
Birmingham City are up to fourth on 14 after beating Portsmouth 2-0 with goals for Stephen Clemence and Stan Lazaridis. Middlesbrough collected their first away win of the season when an early Malcolm Christie goal was enough to beat Southampton.
Bottom club Wolverhampton Wanderers looked on course for their first win anywhere after a spectacular 30-metre volley by Alex Rae but Kevin Davies equalised five minutes from time for Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok.
After a week when Van Nistelrooy had been criticised for some of his theatrical reactions to tackles, he reminded everyone that he was also the supreme centre forward.
His first came in the 16th minute when he intercepted a Paul Scholes shot to double a lead earned a minute earlier through Roy Keane. That goal was also created by Scholes, impressive in his first game back after a month's injury absence.
Van Nistelrooy got his second just before the break after creating space with more exquisite control and completed the treble in the 52nd when he raced on to a pass from Eric Djemba Djemba .
United, who visit Bundesliga leaders VfB Stuttgart in the Champions League on Wednesday, eased off after that and were none too concerned by Frank Sinclair's consolation header.
"The movement, passing and enthusiasm from all 11 players was terrific," United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. "It was a really first-class performance."
"Ruud showed today he is a great player. There can't have been many strikers as good as him over the years."
Ferguson was also happy to have Scholes back, taking the England midfielder off after an hour.
"He gives us other avenues and having him is a real bonus," said the manager, who added that Scholes would definitely play against Stuttgart.
Aston Villa did a good job of stifling Chelsea with a five-man midfield but fell behind in the 43rd minute when goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen could only push Frank Lampard's shot into the path of Hasselbaink.
Villa competed well and, but for two bad misses by Juan Pablo Angel, would have taken a point.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri said his side had been fortunate to take all three points.
"We played well for 20 minutes but in the second half Villa pushed a lot and deserved to draw," said the Italian.