Notts County cranked up the heat of the promotion race with an impressive thumping of local rivals Burton Albion.
Ricky Ravenhill opened the scoring in a gripping first period with a vicious volley from distance.
Former Sheffield United hit-man Steve Kabba dragged the home side level, reacting first to a knock-down.
On the stroke of half-time, Lee Hughes put County back in front with a cool one-on-one finish for his 16th of the campaign.
His 17th and 18th came within eight minutes of the re-start, rounding off his third hat-trick of the season and a comprehensive win for Dave Kevan's team.
With no match played in over two weeks, due to wintery weather conditions, both sides might have been a tad rusty. Still, Burton were looking to build on their 6-1 victory over Aldershot Town earlier in the month and Notts were looking to bounce back from a loss against Accrington Stanley, whilst closing the gap on the top-three at the same time.
The visiting Magpies nearly opened the scoring inside the first minute in a tidy breakaway down the right. Brendan Moloney picked out Karl Hawley's intelligent run with a threaded pass but his dinked effort was met strongly by the arm of Artur Krysiak, who had raced sharply off his line.
Attempts from Hughes and Ben Davies followed; however it was Burton that nearly netted next. Keith Gilroy's lofted centre from the right was fisted high towards the edge of the box by Kasper Schmeichel, where Steve Kabba looped a shot over his own head, narrowly wide of the post.
Kabba came close again on ten minutes in a quickly orchestrated counter attack and should have put his team ahead. Again, the creative Gilroy delivered from the wing onto the unmarked striker's head, only the ball was floated harmlessly behind for a goal kick.
It was end-to-end action at the Pirelli Stadium with both sets of supporters rallying behind their teams. The noise in the away end, though, was lifted significantly when Ravenhill slammed in a stunning volley from 20-yards out.
Davies' corner had been cleared into the path of the tough tackling midfielder. Meeting it perfectly with all his might, he lashed it into the bottom-left corner and sprinted towards the jubilant County supporters at the other end of the pitch.
Westcarr nearly doubled the lead moments after, following some good use of the right channel by Hughes. The top-scorer's cross was punched, at stretch, into the direction of the opportunistic wide-man, but Krysiak followed up to block with his legs.
At the other end John Thompson was caught napping, allowing Greg Pearson to nip in behind the Notts' backline. Ferociously swiping at the loose ball, the powerful forward beat Schmeichel but not the crossbar, which was almost snapped in half by the strike.
Pearson squandered another chance, but his aerial impact was significant throughout and the County rearguard were struggling to handle him. This was highlighted when they were made to pay the price after he nodded a long ball towards Kabba who prodded past Schmeichel, levelling the tie.
It looked likely to be a draw going into the break but a hopeful ball down the centre was flicked on by Hawley and picked up by Hughes. Shielding the ball from several defenders, he placed into the bottom corner past the onrushing Krysiak, sending the Magpies into the changing rooms 2-1 to the good.
Hughes grabbed his second of the match shortly after the break, demonstrating why he is the division's leading marksman. This time Westcarr was the provider, splitting the defence with a sliding through-pass, allowing Hughes to fire low into corner.
Clean through on goal once more, Hughes earned his team a penalty when he rounded the goalkeeper, only to be sent sprawling. Reliable as ever, the front-man didn't think twice about smashing the ball into the roof of the net for his hat-trick.
The away fans were certainly not feeling the effects of a bitterly cold afternoon as they broke into the 'Hughesy' dance routine. Throughout the celebrations, Schmeichel maintained the deficit with a spreading block, despite having his vision obstructed by his defensive armour.
It could have easily been five, too, if it wasn't for Krysiak's acrobatics. Connecting with Davies' corner on the bounce, Jackson forced the Burton stopper to tip over with his fingertips.
Hat-trick hero Hughes was involved in controversy when he tumbled inside the home area for the second time in the afternoon. Protests from the Burton players, and fans, led to two bookings and, to prevent him picking up a second yellow card, the under-fire Hughes was replaced by Luke Rodgers, to the heated jeers of the home support.
Jackson, although operating at right-back, was still providing the Magpies with his regular offensive presence. Well advanced, his thumping effort resulted in another spectacular save by Krysiak, this time tipping onto the crossbar at full reach.
At the other end, Jackson's push gave the Brewers hope from the penalty spot. His fourth of the term, and arguably his finest, Schmeichel leapt to his right to fist Kabba's spot-kick around the post.
Burton's man of the match had to be Schmeichel's opposite number, because if it wasn't for him, the score-line could have been much heavier. Flying towards his top-corner, he shut out Matt Ritchie's stinging punt, parrying over to keep the score at 4-1.
Caretaker manager Dave Kevan will undoubtedly be delighted with the three points and the fact that Notts have climbed to fourth in the League Two standings. Although there is a break from league action at the weekend, the Magpies look to within touching distance of the top-three, of which they sit two points adrift.
Man of the Match: Lee Hughes
Notts County: Kasper Schmeichel, Brendan Moloney, Graeme Lee, John Thompson, Ricky Ravenhill, Neal Bishop, Lee Hughes (Rodgers 76), Ben Davies (Ritchie 88), Karl Hawley, Craig Westcarr (Hamshaw 88), Johnnie Jackson.
Substitutes: Russell Hoult, Matt Ritchie, Mike Edwards, Matthew Hamshaw, Stephen Hunt, Luke Rodgers, Daniel Jones.
Scorer(s): Ravenhill (13), Hughes (45, 48, 53)
Yellow Card(s): Jackson (54), Hughes (72)
Burton Albion: Artur Krysiak, Paul Boertian (Phillips 54), Aaron Webster, Tony James, John McGraph, Darren Stride (Branston 57), Keith Gilroy, Russell Penn, Greg Pearson (Harrad 72), Steve Kabba, Richard Jackson.
Substitutes: Kevin Poole, Michael Simpson, Shaun Harrad, Richard Walker, Jimmy Phillips, Jacques Maghoma, Guy Branston.
Scorer(s): Kabba (38)
Yellow Card(s): Krysiak (52), Harrad (75), Branston (75)
Report by Dane Vincent