Ross County’s midfield seemed to purr like a contented kitten on Saturday as it toyed with poor Morton and unravelled the Greenock defence.
But every big beast with ambitions of being king of the jungle in Scotland’s Championship needs a bite and roar to match the rest of the would-be top cats.
County hunted down Morton in packs, but it was Billy Mckay who held the teeth and claws, the killer instinct at the sharp end of the Dingwall team’s attack.
It proved a memorable show of predatory finishing from the former Caley Thistle and Wigan Athletic striker who turned 30 earlier in the week.
Mckay’s rebirth is down to careful nurturing from the management team.
It is also a product of the quality of build-up play and supply work from team-mates now brimming with confidence.
Mckay, though, is shaping up as a Championship phenomenon. His second hat-trick of the season made it eight goals in four matches.
The Staggies striker netted his ninth, 10th and 11th finishes of the season in a showing reminiscent of his pre-Wigan heyday at Caley Thistle under Terry Butcher.
Morton were simply no match for the league leaders’ relentless movement and intent, with fluent County possession frequently starving them of the ball.
County went ahead in style after nine minutes when Mckay controlled a pin-point pass from Jamie Lindsay superbly on the run and then, with impressive ease, curled a lovely shot around Ryan Scully and into the corner of the net.
Ross Draper sent a header over the bar for County from close-in from Josh Mullin’s corner but the hosts grasped a crucial second three minutes before the interval.
Don Cowie’s perseverance saw him drive on into space to the right of the Morton six-yard box and cut the ball low across goal to give Mckay the simplest of close-range finishes.
County were desperate to avoid a repeat of the previous week, where a 2-0 advantage against Ayr was quickly trimmed before a barrage of uncomfortable pressure.
They did it in the best possible way – with Mckay completing his hat-trick within three minutes of the restart.
After a slick build-up, Mckay’s cleverly weighted pass found Mullin racing in at the right side of the penalty area.
The ex-Livingston winger’s chip was diverted by the flailing hand of Scully but Mckay swooped to score with a left-foot finish.
Morton were in serious bother after individual brilliance from Davis Keillor-Dunn after 57 minutes. The young winger glided around several challenges before flicking a finish past Scully.
Hat-trick man Mckay was relieved of duties just before the hour mark with County home and dry. The Dingwall side had the luxury of throwing on 17-year-old Mark Gallagher for his debut in the last eight minutes.
County kept searching for a fifth, which eventually came from the spot with Lee Kilday’s trip on substitute Declan McManus allowing Brian Graham to score.