James Maddison eased the pressure on Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers and pushed Nottingham Forest to the bottom of the Premier League as the midfielder’s double inspired a vital 4-0 win on Monday.
Rodgers’ side blew Forest away with three goals in the space of 10 minutes in the first half at the King Power Stadium.
Maddison struck either side of a superb finish from Harvey Barnes and Patson Daka netted in the second half as Leicester won for the first time this season at the eighth attempt.
Leicester had lost their previous six games to leave Rodgers fighting to avoid the sack following his criticism of the club’s Thai owners for failing to back him in the transfer window.
Beating their East Midlands rivals should give Rodgers at least a little breathing space, with Leicester moving one place above rock-bottom Forest on goal difference.
Woeful Forest are now without a win in six games, losing five in a row and conceding 16 goals in their last four matches.
That dismal run has turned up the heat on Steve Cooper, who took charge when Forest were bottom of the Championship last season and led them back to the Premier League for the first time since 1999.
It would be incredibly harsh on Cooper to sack him so soon after winning promotion, but Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis would have hoped for better results after sanctioning a hefty investment in 21 new players in the close-season.
Ahead of what he described as a “season-changing” fixture, Rodgers insisted he was the “best person” to save Leicester from relegation.
Rodgers’ players responded to his rallying cry with their best performance for months.
Maddison was the catalyst right from the start as he teased the Forest defence before delivering a precise cross that Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall headed wide.
Dewsbury-Hall flashed a powerful strike just wide moments later before Jamie Vardy headed wide from Maddison’s free-kick.
Forest should have taken advantage of those misses when Taiwo Awoniyi hit the post after racing onto Morgan Gibbs-White’s defence-splitting pass.
That proved the decisive moment as Leicester seized control with two goals in quick succession.
There was more than a slice of luck about Maddison’s 25th-minute opener as he pounced on Jesse Lingard’s awful clearance for a 20-yard strike that took a wicked deflection off Scott McKenna as it looped past Dean Henderson.
If that was fortuitous, there was no denying the excellence of Barnes’ effort in the 27th minute.
Picked out by Vardy’s pass, Barnes took aim from the edge of the area and curled a superb effort into the far corner as Rodgers raised his arms in jubilation.
With several players bickering among themselves, Forest were in disarray.
Maddison was giving England manager Gareth Southgate a reminder of his quality ahead of the World Cup after being left out of the recent Nations League squad.
He delivered the knockout blow to Forest in the 35th minute with a fine free-kick that whistled past Henderson from 25 yards.
In the directors’ box, Leicester chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha wore a broad grin that suggested Rodgers had earned a few days of respite.
But down the touchline, Cooper hung his head in despair as Leicester fans chanted “you’re getting sacked in the morning”.
Forest’s ineptitude was summed up by Awoniyi and Brennan Johnson as they bungled a chance to give Forest a lifeline soon after the interval.
Maddison was still tormenting them and his low cross was perfectly placed for Daka to flick an audacious backheeled finish past Henderson in the 73rd minute.