St Helens overcame the dismissal of forward Matty Lees to secure a 60-10 win at Salford Red Devils and pull four points clear at the top of Betfred Super League - but their victory was overshadowed by a neck injury to Ben Barba.
The Australian full-back scored his first Super League hat-trick, taking him clear at the top of the scoring charts with 15 tries from 13 appearances, but he fell awkwardly in a tackle eight minutes from the end and was carried off on a stretcher.
Saints raced into an early lead through Tommy Makinson before three tries in the space of eight minutes from Dominique Peyroux, Barba and Ryan Morgan, all converted by Danny Richardson, put the visitors firmly in control.
Red Hot Saints beat Salford 60-10 - thank you to all the fans that came out tonight - tremendous result and support! pic.twitter.com/xqKhbBc6r5— St.Helens R.F.C. (@Saints1890) April 26, 2018
Salford responded with a converted try from Tyrone McCarthy but Saints - despite losing Lees - still managed two more tries before the break through Barba and Regan Grace.
The hosts found themselves on the back foot in the second period and further tries from Grace, Mark Percival, Barba, Theo Fages and Morgan took them over the 50-point mark.
However, Salford continued to battle until the very end and were rewarded with the last try of the night, scored by Kris Welham.
On Barba's injury, Saints coach Justin Holbrook said: “I’m not 100 per cent sure but hopefully it’s just a precaution, with the doctors playing on the safe side.
“It looked like he fell awkwardly and at first I thought it was his collar bone but the doctor was pressing on his neck and he was trying to get the feeling back.
“He’s really enjoying playing and he’s a leader in our team. He’s been fantastic for us and he was again tonight.”
Holbrook felt Lees was unfortunate to be sent off, saying: “I thought it was harsh. It was only 20 centimetres off the ground and I thought he hit the shoulder first.
“I couldn’t be happier with how the players responded. No-one wanted to take it as an excuse, they saw it as a bit of an extra challenge.”
Salford coach Ian Watson said: “It was a complete contrast on the back of our two previous games. To turn that performance in, it was like a different team.
“I can’t put my finger on it. Our middles have been good all season but today Saints were on a different level. I’m confident we’ll bounce back but that hurts."