Chelsea, Newcastle and Arsenal all hit six in the Premier League at the weekend and Fulham took advantage of a gulf in class to get in on the act on Wednesday night.
Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora scored twice each under torrential rain at Craven Cottage and Fulham’s new £5million striker Moussa Dembele scored on his full debut for the club.
Clint Dempsey replaced Dembele at half-time and slammed home the sixth as Fulham boldly signalled their intent to the attack the Carling Cup.
While many top flight sides name weakened teams at this early stage of the competition, Hughes made just three changes from Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
Dembele came into the side along with Gera and left-back Matthew Briggs, who enjoyed an eye-catching full debut before being substituted to a standing ovation after an hour.
Briggs had clearly been given a licence to attack and it was his tenacity which created the opening goal for Gera after 10 minutes.
The 19-year-old tore down the left wing before floating a deep cross into the box, where Gera stole in front of the defender to head Fulham into the lead.
Gera took a boot to the face for his troubles but the goal settled Fulham, who had made an uncertain start at the back.
Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, who saved Nani’s penalty at the weekend, was beaten to Sean Rigg’s cross but Adam Yates’ header deflected out for a corner.
Gary Roberts picked out Port Vale striker Justin Richards with a lofted pass into the box but Fulham eventually scrambled the ball clear – and almost immediately took a 2-0 lead.
Dembele worked space for himself on the edge of the Port Vale box before unleashing a fierce strike, which goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson did well to block.
But that was just a range-finder from the Belgian. Dembele then cut in from the right flank and unleashed a low left-footed drive which beat Tomlinson and went in off the far post.
Fulham were cruising now. Briggs was a constant thorn in Port Vale’s side and he almost picked out Dembele with a driven cross to the far post.
Damian Duff turned the ball back into the box for Zamora who volleyed goalwards from six yards but straight at Tomlinson.
It was not long, though, until the England striker got his goal as Fulham passed their way slickly through the visitors’ defence.
Zamora let Briggs’ pass run for Gera and then darted into the box to take the return ball and rifle his shot from an acute angle into the roof of the net.
Vale could not live with the pace or the intensity of Fulham’s constant raids and they stood off Gera, allowing the Hungarian to turn in the box and beat Tomlinson with a rising shot.
Fulham sent on Dempsey for Dembele at half-time and Port Vale’s defence barely had any respite. Zamora escaped down the right and then squared the ball for Dempsey, whose powerful drive was well stopped by Tomlinson.
Visiting captain Marc Richards was guilty of an air shot as the ball fell to him in the box. Port Vale substitute Abdulai Bell-Baggie then linked neatly with Justin Richards but neither could get a shot away.
Fulham kept pouring forward. Dempsey forced a near-post save from Tomlinson before attempting a repeat of his wonder strike against Juventus but the goalkeeper was alert to the chip.
Duff flashed a shot across goal that went just wide but Zamora’s radar was more finely tuned.
After being bundled to the ground 22 yards out, Zamora picked himself off the sodden turf to curl the free-kick round the wall and past Tomlinson’s despairing dive.
Dempsey then rammed home Fulham’s sixth from the same distance after being teed up by Gera, a strike greeted by chants of “easy, easy” from the home end.
Vale’s travelling supporters responded with “we only want one goal” but their side were denied by Stockdale, who blocked Richards’ shot at point-blank range.