Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini preaches constantly about the need for his team to develop the ruthless mentality they will need if they are to reach the very top of the European game. Here we finally saw some of it, even if it was against a team from League One.
City did not really deserve to win this fourth-round replay by such a convincing margin. They played modestly for long periods and came within an inch of falling behind in the first half.
Nevertheless, the Barclays Premier League team showed a merciless streak not always apparent this season to advance to a fifth-round meeting with Aston Villa a week on Wednesday.
Head start: Notts County keeper Stuart Nelson is stranded as Patrick Vieira scores the opening goal of the game for City
'It is important that when we score a goal we go on and score more,' reflected Mancini. 'We did that today. I was happy in the end but in the first half Notts County played very well and caused us some problems.'
If Mancini's comments hinted at a little sympathy for his former Inter Milan colleague Paul Ince, then it was understandable. Having been 10 minutes from beating City at Meadow Lane three weeks ago, Notts County gave another good account of themselves. Certainly they did not deserve to lose by five goals.
On target: ?27m striker Dzeko celebrates with Tevez after scoring City's fourth goal
County were still very much in the game as the hour mark approached and three goals in the last six minutes put a rather unfortunate slant on the scoreline. Indeed, their best player, left-sided midfielder Karl Hawley, came painfully close to giving County the lead early in the game.
City had started the game terribly slowly and their opponents were enjoying themselves and very much on the front foot when Hawley curled a superb shot against the inside of the far post from the angle of the area in the 21st minute.
Cameo: Tevez came off the bench to score with six minutes remaining
Patrick Vieira, used sparingly since his arrival from Inter last January, scored his team's first two goals. Both were headers from corners, the first deflected past goalkeeper Stuart Nelson by the hand of his team-mate Krystian Pearce eight minutes before half-time; the second a powerful effort in the 57th minute.
As the Frenchman scored the second, team-mate Mario Balotelli fell to the ground, apparently unconscious, following an accidental clash of heads with Pearce and was replaced by captain Carlos Tevez. None of this stopped the Italian complaining about his substitution as he walked down the tunnel.
At times, though, he appeared to rub his troublesome knee and some of his decisions when in possession, such as a wild 40-yard shot before half-time, continue to be baffling.
Mancini said: 'It was agreed beforehand that Mario would come off. He has just recovered from injury so it's normal. We decided he would have an hour. He wasn't happy but it's not a problem. If Mario shoots and scores he doesn't rub his knee. If he doesn't score, then he rubs his knee.'
Full stretch: Joe Hart was saved by the post as Notts County came close to snatching a shock first half lead through Karly Hawley
Up for the cup: Notts County fans were in high spirits but their hopes of an upset were soon crushed by Vieira
While Balotelli's mental disposition may yet cause City more problems, his replacement remains invaluable. Tevez ran on to a cute Edin Dzeko pass to outpace Jon Harley and round Nelson to score his 50th City goal six minutes from the end and was then able to collect a Gareth Barry pass and cross for Dzeko to head in the fourth.
Empty feeling: Thousands of home seats were unsold as many Manchester City fans snubbed the fourth-round replay
Match Facts MANCHESTER CITY (4-1-3-2): Hart 6;Richards 7, K Toure 6, Lescott 6, Zabaleta 6; Vieira 8; Silva 6 (Jo 85min), Y Toure 6 (Barry 80), Kolarov 6; Dzeko 6, Balotelli 6 (Tevez 60, 7). Subs not used: Taylor, Kompany, Boateng, Nimely.Booked: Balotelli.
NOTTS COUNTY (4-4-2): Nelson 6; Darby 6 (Thompson 60, 6), Pearce 6, Edwards 6, Harley 6; Westcarr 7, Ravenhill 6, Bishop 7, Hawley 7; Hughes 6 (Gobern 79), Gow 7. Subs not used: Burch, Lee, Spicer, Smith.
Man of the match: Patrick Vieira.
Referee: Mike Jones 7.
Still there was time for the steadily improving Micah Richards to score from a corner in stoppage time and Dzeko could even have added a sixth, only for Nelson to deny him with his feet.
By this time, Ince was merely praying for the final whistle as his team had all but fallen apart. He said: 'Some of their staff have told me it was never a 5-0 game. I thought we did ever so well and with some luck we could have been 1-0 up. When you come to a place like this you need some luck and the width of the post made sure we didn't have it.
'When you get your chances you have to take them. But I am still very proud of the players.'
City will face Everton or Reading at Eastlands in the last eight if they get past Villa. They could, however, lose reserve goalkeeper Shay Given for the rest of the season after he injured his shoulder last week. He will see a specialist in London.
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Explore more:People: Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Patrick Vieira, Roberto Mancini, Mario Balotelli, Shay Given, Paul Ince, Gareth Barry Places: London