Carlos Tevez showed old boss Mark Hughes no mercy at Craven Cottage as Manchester City romped to a victory that saw them close to within three points of the Premier League summit.

Twelve months ago Hughes was the man profiting from the South American’s prowess in front of goal.

Now it is Roberto Mancini hailing two goals and a man-of-the-match display from the inspirational South American.

Indeed, as Mancini reflects on a table that shows his side to be bang in the title hunt – as well as more money to strengthen in January than any of their rivals – and four more goals on the road to answer the critics who have panned him for being too negative, the Italian could be forgiven for having a large chuckle to himself.

Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Toure struck within a three-minute period at the end of the first half after Tevez had given City a flying start.

And although Zoltan Gera netted a consolation for the visitors, Tevez had already grabbed a fourth for the Blues, who would have to be rated as strong championship challengers in this crazy season, if only they can start playing at home as they do away.

For a side said to be lacking in team spirit and certainly lacking a few goals after successive goalless draws, this was precisely the kind of banana skin they needed to avoid.

Hughes said all the right things in the build-up to his first encounter with City since he was controversially dumped in favour of Mancini last December but his desperation to win must have been huge. After all, five of the City team were his signings, compared to just one in his own.

This did not include Jo, who arrived at Eastlands a couple of weeks before the Welshman and was sent packing at the earliest opportunity.

In a sense, Jo represents the profligacy of Sheikh Mansour’s tenure. Bought for £18million without any real role and sent away just as quickly.

It is Tevez though who remains City’s stellar buy of the Abu Dhabi era. And it took the South American just five minutes to show why.

On the shoulder of Carlos Salcido, Tevez collected Gareth Barry’s pass perfectly, allowing him to roll the defender, expertly using his body weight, and then drill a low shot beyond Mark Schwarzer.

Such is the success City tend to enjoy when Tevez score, Hughes must have feared the worst.

Had Aleksandar Kolarov showed a similarly clinical instinct when he nipped past Damien Duff after David Silva had found him with a delicate chipped pass on a lightning break forward, the contest would have been over before it eventually was.

The wait was only a couple of minutes though. The culprit Duff, whose scuffed clearance to a low Silva cross rolled perfectly for Zabaleta.

In front of watching Argentina legend Diego Maradona, Zabaleta must have impressed his fellow countryman with the ferocity of his strike, which flew into the corner.

If Tevez was the stand-out signing of Hughes’ time in charge, Toure is Mancini’s signature transfer.

The wages, estimated at £220,000, are still so colossal they can scarcely be believed. The figure trotted out with every ineffective display.

Yet Toure goes about his work in an understated way.

The Ivorian did not really dominate proceedings here but overlapping to Tevez’s right to collect a pass that continued a move Jo and Silva had started, he finished in fine style, more or less in exactly the same spot as the first City goal ended up in.

A brief flurry which coincided with Zoltan Gera’s half-time introduction raised hopes of a Fulham face-saving mission.

Sadly for Hughes and his players it turned out to be an illusion.

Tevez really should have squared to provide an unmarked Jo with a tap-in after he had burst clear of the home defence.

Instead he allowed Schwarzer to make the save, conceding the corner from which he was to profit as, with his back to goal, he stuck out a foot to send Zabaleta’s 20-yard drive looping into the Fulham net for his 10th goal of the season.

There was no way back for the hosts, who did gain some consolation thanks to Gera.

But Hughes and his team are now in a relegation scrap and he can only watch as City challenge for the major honours.