Liverpool v Everton
There was to be no 10th anniversary celebration for David Moyes at Anfield as a hat-trick from Steven Gerrard earned Liverpool local bragging rights.
Despite an array of enduring successes, Moyes had never triumphed on the other side of the Stanley Park – a badge of honour coveted by any Everton boss.
And a ruthless treble from Liverpool talisman Gerrard meant that he will have to wait at least another season before chalking that particular aim off his list.
Uncharacteristically poor defending led to a soft opener for the England midfielder 10 minutes before the interval.
And just as the Blues looked to stamp their mark on proceedings early in the second half, they conceded a deflating second as more poor defensive play paved the way for Gerrard to double his tally.
Had the Premier League started in January, Liverpool would have found themselves in the bottom three.
The Reds’ Carling Cup success had been a bright spot amid some distinctly mediocre league form.
By contrast, Everton went into the game nine unbeaten and gnashing away at their rivals’ heels following victories over Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
However, as the cliché goes, form is out the window in the derby and Liverpool – with a great recent record in this fixture – were clear and deserved winners.
With this contest right on the back of an energy-sapping win over Spurs, and an FA Cup quarter-final against Sunderland looming large at the weekend, Moyes opted to shuffle his pack.
The hosts, meanwhile, were pretty much at full strength having made changes the previous weekend, and they started with purpose.
The early exchanges were played out in the Everton half and soon Gerrard picked the lock to sneak into range only for Tim Howard to stoop and powerfully extend an arm and parry his crisp side-footed shot.
The ball spun away into Jordan Henderson’s path but a manful block from Jack Rodwell snuffed out the danger.
The Blues had been under the cosh early on but could have gone ahead against the run of play with their very first venture into enemy territory.
The cute feet of Steven Pienaar released Baines down the flank but, when he returned the favour for the South African, his shot was wasteful and high into the Kop.
Despite patches of good possession, play was generally at the other end of the pitch and Howard again had to be alert to save from Luis Suarez.
With a tricky opening 20 minutes negotiated, the Blues came into the game with Marouane Fellaini and Pienaar at the heart of their improvement.
Yet just as it looked as though they may take a grip on things, Everton self-destructed, giving the ball away cheaply and surrendering the initiative.
Martin Kelly’s resulting shot was weak but Howard coughed it up and, with Sylvain Distin failing to clear the second ball, it spilled for Gerrard to loop a chipped finish into the empty net for a gift-wrapped opener.
Everton began the second period attacking the end where they had overturned a similar deficit last season, but there was to be no instant turnaround this time.
More sloppy play left Suarez one on one with Distin and he danced through and pulled back for an unmarked Gerrard to finish with ease, a mere five minutes into the second period.
Moyes called for Jelavic, Osman and Drenthe as Anichebe, Stracqualursi and Coleman made way.
Everton needed something quickly and almost had it as Baines cut back intelligently for Rodwell but the midfielder’s shot lacked power and direction.
And unfortunately for the visitors, on a night when very little went for them, that was as good as it got.
They even had to endure the late frustration of Gerrard wrapping up his hat-trick late on.
The defeat brought a superb unbeaten run to an end in emphatic fashion but progress in Saturday's big cup tie would surely provide a tonic for all concerned.