Sam Surridge bagged a hat-trick to help Nottingham Forest maintain the pressure on second-placed Bournemouth, with a thumping 5-1 win over Swansea.
The striker has now scored seven Championship goals since his £2.2million signing from Stoke in January – but few will have been more precious than the three that helped Steve Cooper secure a vital win over his former club.
A Cyrus Christie own goal was cancelled out by Michael Obafemi to leave it 1-1 at half-time.
But Surridge’s second-half treble – and a late goal from substitute Alex Mighten – ensured Forest will head to Bournemouth on Tuesday still trailing Scott Parker’s side by just three points.
Forest were a whisker away from taking the lead when Philip Zinckernagel saw his shot blocked in the goalmouth by defender Ryan Manning. It took another brilliant block, this time from ex-Red Christie, to deny James Garner.
Steve Cook’s lofted ball down the middle sent Surridge clear – but he did not get enough on an attempted lob and Andy Fisher made a simple save.
Forest took the lead in dramatic circumstances in the 22nd minute, after Christie desperately tried to claw the ball to stop it from crossing the line after he had charged down a Jack Colback cross. The defender was initially shown a red card by referee Graham Scott, who also pointed to the penalty spot.
But, after a long discussion with his fellow officials, the red card was withdrawn and the goal was awarded.
Swansea equalised six minutes later when Matt Grimes set up Obafemi to find the bottom corner with a precise shot from 12 yards.
But then Forest pushed hard for another, with Joe Worrall denied by a fine stop from Fisher, who then made a brilliant double save to firstly push Surridge’s header onto a post, before regaining his feet to keep out Ryan Yates’ close-range header. Surridge guided another fine chance wide.
Brice Samba had to make a strong save to deny Obafemi a second goal before the interval.
It took just three minutes of the second half for Forest to restore their lead, as Garner’s corner was perfectly flighted towards the far post, where Surridge headed home simply but emphatically.
Four minutes after that it was 3-1, as the same two players combined – with Garner powering forward, before slotting in Surridge down the left. He applied a brilliant curling finish into the top corner.
Fisher made another great stop to deny Surridge his hat-trick – but it finally came in the 69th minute, after a Djed Spence cross had been deflected onto the bar and the striker was in the right place to drive it home.
Goal difference could be vital in the race for second place and Forest will have been happy to see Mighten battle his way down the centre, before managing to force the ball beyond Fisher.
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