Robbie Keane celebrated his record-breaking 126th cap with a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland eased past the Faroe Islands 3-0 to bank three priceless World Cup points.
The 32-year-old claimed his 57th senior international goal with an accomplished finish with just five minutes gone, and then added another 10 minutes after the break from Seamus Coleman's inviting cross.
But there was more to come as substitutes James McClean and Conor Sammon teamed up to hand him his third of the night and 59th in total on a plate with nine minutes of the game remaining.
It was a game Ireland simply had to win if they are to stand any chance of overhauling Austria and Sweden in the race for second place in Group C behind runaway leaders Germany.
And although they might have been more clinical at times, manager Giovanni Trapattoni will have been happy enough with a win which extended his side's run since their humiliation by the Germans to just one defeat in eight games.
It was only five minutes old when the again impressive Wes Hoolahan and Jon Walters exchanged passes before the Norwich playmaker fed the ball out to the left, from where Aiden McGeady crossed for Keane to sweep a first-time left-foot shot past keeper Gunnar Nielsen.
Trapattoni's men were dominating possession - goalkeeper David Forde was largely redundant and the biggest challenge for the defenders in front of him was to maintain concentration. Hoolahan could have calmed any nerves within four minutes of the restart when he met another McGeady cross in front of goal, but he could not keep his header down.
But the game was effectively over with 55 minutes played when full-back Coleman, who had been picked out by Hoolahan, curled in a low cross from the right which evaded Walters' lunge but was promptly dispatched by Keane as he slid in behind him.
Central defender Atli Gregersen might have set up an interesting finale when he sent a 77th-minute header just over Forde's bar, but Keane struck again with nine minutes remaining after McClean and Sammon had combined to present him with the simplest of chances.
Cox very nearly added his name to the scoresheet three minutes later with a long-range strike which flew just high and wide, but victory had been secured some time earlier.