Tottenham kept up the pressure on leaders Chelsea with an impressive home victory over Watford, their sixth consecutive Premier League win.
Watford had started brightly, but Dele Alli’s sumptuous strike – curled into the top corner after Son Heung-min’s pass – signalled their quick decline.
Within just 11 more minutes they were three behind as Eric Dier smashed in from Son’s deflected cross, before the South Korea forward added a third just before the break, firing in a rasping drive following Christian Eriksen’s pass.
After half-time it was much the same story, with Watford only threatening in isolated moments, and Son further confirmed Spurs’ dominance by meeting Kieran Trippier’s perfect cross with a lovely half-volley at the far post.
Harry Kane, returning as a second-half substitute, struck the bar with an injury-time free-kick – the last kick of the game – and Son might have sealed his hat-trick from his earlier pass.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side remain seven points adrift of Chelsea, who beat Bournemouth 3-1 later on Saturday.
But they are 14 points clear of fifth-placed Arsenal, who have two games in hand and play at Crystal Palace on Monday (20:00). Spurs have not finished above their north London rivals since 1995.
It was Vincent Janssen who led the line in Kane’s absence from the starting line-up – and the Netherlands international missed another easy chance for the game’s opening goal.
Trippier – one of the standout performers, his delivery was brilliant throughout – crossed low from the right flank, taking out goalkeeper and defence, but Janssen could only awkwardly divert the ball onto the bar via the top of his thigh with the goal at his mercy.
His only goal in 23 Premier League games, since a £17m summer arrival from AZ Alkmaar, remains a penalty against Leicester in October – and he was once again overshadowed by the dynamic and far more clinical Son.
Son’s second goal was particularly admirable, diverting another superb Trippier ball into the back of the net with a deftly controlled finish.
But the pick of the bunch was undoubtedly Alli’s. The England midfielder’s excellent season continued with a 13th goal from his past 15 league games. You will struggle to see a better one this weekend.
Hornets have an off day
Watford beat Arsenal 2-1 away in late January, but this performance was a world away.
They might claim mitigating circumstances – it was something of a makeshift defence with Miguel Britos suspended and Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Prodl both injured – but once their positive start had faded, Spurs picked them off with ease.
Walter Mazzarri’s side had moved up to 10th in the league with two wins in a row, easing pressure on their manager, but the Italian will still be concerned by the possibility of a slide down the table in their remaining seven games.
Mazzarri has said he wants to stay, but the fate of Quique Sanchez Flores,who was fired at the end of last season with the club in 13th, will surely be at the forefront of his mind.
The race for the title
Tottenham, whose last league title came in 1961, need Chelsea to drop points if they are to overtake the Blues at the top of the league.
But even if they do not, a second-placed finish – which would be their highest in the Premier League – is looking likely.
v Manchester United (a)
v Bournemouth (h)
v Southampton (h)
v Crystal Palace (a)
v Everton (a)
v Arsenal (h)
v Middlesbrough (h)
v West Ham (a)
v West Brom (a)
v Manchester United (h)
v Sunderland (h)
v Hull (a)
*Chelsea also play Watford at home in a match to be rescheduled
**Spurs also play away to Leicester in a match to be rescheduled
Alli tops Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham – the stats
Tottenham have won 11 Premier League home games in a row, their best winning streak at White Hart Lane since 1987 (14)
Watford have won just once in their past 11 away league games (D2 L8)
Dele Alli has been directly involved in 14 goals in 13 Premier League games for Tottenham in 2017 (10 goals, 4 assists)
Alli (40) has had a hand in as many Premier League goals before turning 21 as Frank Lampard (15), Steven Gerrard (13) & David Beckham (12) combined
Son Heung-min has had a hand in five goals in his last three Premier League games (4 goals, 1 assist), after none in the five before that
Man of the match – Son Heung-min
Ex-Wales striker John Hartson on BBC Radio 5 live:
“I would use the word sensational for Son. Every time he had the ball, other than his miss from that Harry Kane pass, he’s been really, really good. A top class player and he got a big bear hug from his manager.”
What they said
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino: “Many things impressed me, we played really well. It is a massive result for us. We will keep pushing and keep believing.
“The team deserve full credit because the energy was fantastic. It was 4-0 but we deserved more goals. The players spoke for me on the pitch and I am very proud of that performance.
“We’re second and the gap now is four but Chelsea have one game more to play. We will try to be there if Chelsea fail.”
Watford manager Walter Mazzarri: “We started really well and were playing at the same level as Tottenham, who are a phenomenal side. But it was really difficult after the three goals, that cut our legs.
“We had players who were tired from playing many games, it was a pity. But taking everything into consideration we are happy, and we have to look forward.
“We now have seven finals to play, and we are looking forward to building on this next year.”
Tottenham play Bournemouth at home in the Premier League next Saturday, when Watford host relegation-threatened Swansea City.