Sunderland moved up to fourth in the Championship as they dismantled winless Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Dan Ballard met Alex Pritchard's inswinging corner to power home an early close-range header unchallenged.
And it was 2-0 after just eight minutes when the Championship's top scorer Jack Clarke was allowed to cut across the face of the 18-yard box and lash home his sixth of the season inside the right-hand post.
Clarke heaped more pressure on Owls boss Xisco Munoz when he tucked a 30th-minute penalty into the bottom corner - his sixth goal in five games - after Bambo Diaby had pulled down Mason Burstow.
Rock-bottom Wednesday have mustered just two points and five goals in nine league games this season and are four points from safety having played a game more.
In contrast, Tony Mowbray's eye-catching side sit five points behind leaders Leicester after a fifth league win in seven - and a third away victory in a fortnight.
They are also now the Championship's top scorers with 18 goals in nine games, including 14 from their last five.
Wednesday's build-up to the game was clouded by a matchday statement from their owner Dejphon Chansiri complaining at his treatment by disgruntled fans, and saying he will not put any more money into the club.
A minute's applause before kick-off for Sheffield United midfielder Maddy Cusack was well observed, but the mood swiftly turned sour among the home support as Sunderland's lightning start prompted more calls for Munoz and Chansiri to leave.
The Owls grew into the game and provided a few bright spots, with John Buckley forcing goalkeeper Anthony Patterson into a scrambling save, but the Black Cats' pace going forward continued to unsettle the hosts, with Jobe Bellingham impressing as the pivot for their breaks.
A third successive away win looked all but done after Clarke's second on the half-hour. But it could have been even worse for the home side before the break, with Bellingham scuffing a shot wide when well placed and the unmarked Ballard heading Pritchard's corner just wide.
The Owls kept plugging away in the second half, with Pol Valentin's storming run and cross teeing up Callum Paterson who smashed a shot straight at his namesake Patterson. The visiting keeper also denied the hosts a stoppage-time consolation with a smart stop from George Byers' bullet header.
But Wednesday continued to look vulnerable on the counter as Patrick Roberts almost grabbed a fourth, within seconds of Paterson's shot, while Bellingham also curled a super effort inches wide.
Sheffield Wednesday boss Xisco Munoz told BBC Radio Sheffield:
"We change different systems, we play a lot of players. We can continue to try and find a solution, but when you concede two goals in nine minutes, it doesn't matter the style, it doesn't matter the system or the tactical plan of the game.
"Now is not the time to speak about the situation (at the club). Right now we need to try and change a lot of things about the psychology, the mentality, about the power. My way is football and try to find a solution to the problem inside the pitch.
"In the second half we found some better moments, but not enough.
"When you are in this dynamic, you need to try and change that dynamic and it's important that the players continue with this confidence, and today the first 30 minutes was the worst scenario possible for them."
Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray told BBC Radio Newcastle:
"It's a bit frustrating because I want us to be more ruthless and score another three goals in the second half if we can, but I understand it's about winning for us and to keep going.
"The bigger picture is about being a better team and when teams aren't quite right or set up properly we can really damage them. I want every team to fear us so they do sit plenty of bodies behind the ball."
(On Jack Clarke): "He's an amazing footballer, he's very positive and very confident at the moment.
"When I think back to being manager of Blackburn Rovers and he was with Tottenham Under-21s and not getting a kick against our young team - something miraculous has happened to Jack Clarke and he's now playing with confidence and belief in himself - and at times he's unplayable."