Shaun Goater scored a hat-trick as Manchester City put four past ten-man Fulham at Maine Road this afternoon and moved into second place in Division One.

The scoreline stung Fulham, who were in the game until Chris Coleman was dismissed for deliberate handball. Joe Royle’s side added three goals after the Whites were numerically disadvantaged to boost their goal difference and add to the perception that the miserable Manchester City era following their relegation from the top flight might just be coming to an end.

Goater, who has always faced doubts about whether he could replicate his goalscoring exploits at a higher level, now has eighteen goals in an outstanding season having stepped up impressively from scoring twenty in the league below. Plenty thought that the Bermudan striker would be sacrificed in the summer that followed City’s dramatic Wembley comeback to beat Gillingham in the play-off final, but Royle allowed the popular forward to stake his claim for a starting point.

Fulham were furious at refereeing decisions that didn’t go their way. Bracewell berated the match officials for failing to give a penalty when Richard Edghill brought down Paul Peschisolido with the scoreline at 0-0, disagreed with the decision to send his skipper off and felt Goater was offside when he did break the deadlock. Television replays suggested he had a case and the Whites’ sense of grievance was enhanced by the fact that Rufus Brevett twisted his ankle in trying to prevent Richard Edghill from reaching Robert Taylor’s long ball. Both the City left back and Goater looked offside, but the goal was given.

Fulham had been on top until that moment, with Lee Clark dictating play from central midfield, but the Cottagers have paid the price of failing to score goals already this season. Here, Peschisolido and Wayne Collins wasted good chances whilst the game was still level – and they were never going to come back once Coleman was red carded for handling the ball with Goater haring down on goal.

The goal glut that followed meant City’s fans left in party mood. Goater’s second – a glorious overhead kick after Maik Taylor had flapped a free-kick from Kevin Horlock – was followed five minutes later by the completion of his hat-trick. The former Bristol City striker showed all of his predatory instincts to head home from close range after the Fulham goalkeeper had kept out a header from Richard Jobson. Two minutes later and Fulham’s frustrating afternoon was compounded when Steve Finnan brought down Ian Bishop in the box and Horlock calmly converted the penalty.

MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Weaver; Granville, Edghill, Wiekens, Jobson; Horlock, Kennedy, Bishop, Grant; Goater, G. Taylor. Subs (not used): Wright, Tiatto, Crooks, Pollock, Dickov.

BOOKED: Kennedy.

GOALS: Goater (29, 77, 85), Horlock (pen 87).

FULHAM (5-3-2): M. Taylor; Finnan, Brevett (Trollope 31), Melville, Symons (Riedle 63), Coleman; Ball, W. Collins, Clark; Horsfield, Peschisolido. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Morgan, Hayward.

BOOKED: Finnan, Horsfield, Riedle.

REFEREE: Paul Danson (Leicestershire).