Neil Humphreys: Why Liverpool are worthy champions
Reds on course to collect a host of records, not just the EPL title
Check the date. Mark the time and remember the moment that a single goal defined an era.
Liverpool's fourth goal was epoch-making, a confirmation of everything that we had dared to believe before that wretched virus intervened.
The Reds really are that good. They always were.
But their final flourish against Crystal Palace was a rubber-stamping of their rare pedigree, but only if the stamp was dipped in precious metals and daubed across a masterpiece.
Whether they win the title today, next week or the week after no longer matters. Their 4-0 win against Palace, their swaggering attitude and that breathtaking goal jolted our collective muscle memory.
We remember their greatness now. In fact, we might even be embarrassed at the temporary lapse in judgment, but a global pandemic can do that to anyone.
As English Premier League football faded from one's consciousness for a few months, those impertinent questions haunted us.
Were Liverpool really that impressive before lockdown? Were they quite as imperious as those pre-coronavirus stats suggested? Were they worthy of so many gushing accolades before the lights went out?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, as they dazzled in their Technicolor counter-pressing brilliance inside an empty Anfield.
Silence wasn't golden, but it wasn't a hindrance either as the Reds reasserted their stranglehold on the season.
The post-lockdown message was clear. This is Anfield. This is what we do, what we've been doing since last August. Normal service resumed with an abnormal display.
WORK OF ART
Each of the four goals felt like a graceful riposte to the odd heckler that had challenged the hype surrounding the champions-elect. But the fourth goal was something else entirely.
Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and then Mane again combined to produce a work of art.
Mane spun away from the touchline. Firmino pulled the ball and half of Palace towards him before releasing Salah.
What happened next will be pinpointed as the birth of Juergen Klopp's champions.
Salah, as quarterback, caressed a first-time pass, with his weaker foot, towards the prima ballerina formerly known as Mane, who was checking and swerving and gliding in zigzags to stay onside.
He opened his body and closed down any remaining dissent concerning Liverpool's supremacy.
The build-up, pass, finish, occasion and circumstances were effortlessly perfect. One fluid movement crystallised 4½ years of Klopp's philosophy: fast feet and faster thinking.
Even Manchester City do not quite score goals like that. No one does. Only Liverpool. And they must continue to do so for the rest of this protracted season, to ensure that their unrivalled class trumps Covid-19.
According to lazy cliche, the Reds must now blood the youngsters. Once the title mathematicians are satisfied, Klopp will call up the kids and prepare for next season.
Have these kiddie theorists ever seen Liverpool play or heard Klopp speak or witnessed anything associated with the club since the German took charge?
Yesterday, a giddy Klopp was just as pleased with four Reds hounding a terrorised Palace footballer in the final minutes as he was with the four goals.
He does not relent. He'll give Neco Williams and Harvey Elliott late cameos when upcoming games are already won, but that's the only concession to his frenzied thinking.
Gegenpressing doesn't play at half-speed. Nor does history.
Winning every game at home has never been achieved in a complete EPL season before. The Reds want that record.
Most wins in an EPL campaign, most away victories, most points, the earliest title win and the biggest winning margin are records within their grasp. The Reds want them all.
Liverpool have earned the right to define this season, rather than a damn virus.
Such whimsical idealism is probably misplaced. Pandemics live long in the memory.
But the unthinkable has already happened once. An interminable nightmare briefly gave way to a feverish dream, involving four exquisite goals, including one that will never be forgotten.
Considering the difficult circumstances, Liverpool had no need to be that entertaining and committed to their performance, but they gave everything.
They have given everything all season long.
It seems only fair that in the remaining games, they take everything they can get.