When Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool play like they did here on the banks of the Thames, the turmoil of the first half of the season can resemble a trick of the mind. Were the club really languishing in 12th place in the Premier League when he took over in January?

There are many differences between then and now, principally in terms of confidence and a feel-good factor. But, perhaps above all, there is Luis Suárez, the £22.7m winter window signing from Ajax. It takes something to eclipse the achievement of a hat-trick from a team-mate and nothing ought to be taken away from Maxi Rodríguez, who was in ruthless mood and reached his personal landmark with a beauty from distance. But Suárez managed it.

He was irrepressible, leaving Fulham's defenders dazed and confused and proving the architect of his club's latest resounding win, which lifted them above Tottenham Hotspur into fifth place and pole position for Europa League qualification. They entertain Spurs at Anfield on Sunday. The transformation under Dalglish has been remarkable and he has taken 33 points from a possible 48. Give the man a permanent contract. But he is not the only Liverpool hero.

"Suárez was fantastic," Dalglish said. "He was running as hard at the end as at the beginning. Even in our wildest dreams we couldn't have thought he'd settle as well as he has done. He has graced the pitch every time he has stepped on it."

Liverpool's resurgence has raised questions about their ability to compete next season. They will not want for motivation, with Manchester United primed to better their haul of 18 league titles. "It's hurtful from our point of view," said the injured captain, Steven Gerrard. "But we are on our way back up and we won't give up the fight to overtake them again. We need to amend the 19-18. We will be doing everything in our power to do that."

Dalglish had started with Suárez as his lone front-man and he was central to much of what Liverpool did. With his slick touch and movement, not to mention his wonderful awareness, it was difficult to take the eyes off him. It was worth remembering that Fulham had kept six clean sheets in seven league fixtures at home since the turn of the year. Suárez helped to bring them to their knees.

It was the Uruguayan who set up the first for Rodríguez, who scored after 32 seconds and now has seven goals in three matches. Played through by Lucas Leiva, Suárez cut back a low cross which squirted off Carlos Salcido and forced Mark Schwarzer into an improvised save with his feet. The ball reached to Rodríguez, who dispatched it low into the far corner.

Rodríguez scored his second when a ball over the top by the impressive Lucas released Glen Johnson, who dug out a cross to the far post where Rodríguez's left-footed volley was true. Fulham's misery was deepened on 16 minutes when Schwarzer, embarrassingly, allowed a tame shot from Dirk Kuyt to wriggle underneath him.

Hughes went for the jugular in the second half, sending on Bobby Zamora up front. There was greater urgency about their play. With Liverpool content to strike on the counter, Fulham flickered. Clint Dempsey, who had seen a first-half volley cleared off the line by Johnson, went close before Moussa Dembélé curled a lovely low shot beyond Pepe Reina. The home crowd crackled to life and allowed themselves to dream outlandish dreams.

But this was not a night for Fulham to take too many positives and Rodríguez deflated the mood with his hat-trick goal; a right-footed blast out of nothing. Suárez then got the goal that he deserved. He danced on to the substitute Jonjo Shelvey's pass and around Schwarzer to finish in one sumptuous movement.

The home team's frustration was reflected by Chris Baird, who appeared to flick a V-sign at the referee, LeeMason, after he was booked for a foul on Kuyt. Steve Sidwell's late rocket was negligible consolation. Liverpool are on the march.