IT was as if 24 years of hurt almost disappeared in 45 minutes.
Leeds’ victory at Dean Court in 1990, amid dreadful scenes of wanton violence from some travelling followers, resulted in Cherries’ brief stay in the second flight coming to an end.
On that fateful May Bank Holiday, a solitary goal from Lee Chapman had seen the visitors crowned champions, while Harry Redknapp’s men had been left to lick their wounds.
Fast forward and Eddie Howe’s class of 2014 recorded – in emphatic fashion – the club’s first victory over the Yorkshire outfit thanks to a near-perfect first-half display.
Cherries, unbeaten this season when they have taken the lead, never looked back after Yann Kermorgant had fired them in front after just 67 seconds.
And Leeds’ record of winning the past six encounters was effectively ended when Lewis Grabban netted a finely-taken double to give the hosts a thoroughly-deserved 3-0 lead at the break.
Cherries’ memorable march continued early in the second half when Kermorgant added his second and their fourth, with Ross McCormack’s goal providing scant consolation for the hapless visitors.
Victory hoisted Cherries into 10th place in the table and, on the evidence of this slick display, a seven-point gap to the play-offs looks anything but insurmountable.
Harry Arter and Marc Pugh were drafted in to the starting line-up as Cherries boss Howe made two changes following Saturday’s 1-0 win at Barnsley.
The pair replaced Eunan O’Kane, who dropped to the bench, and Ryan Fraser, who is understood to have reported for treatment after his exertions at Oakwell.
Cherries supporters could not have wished for a better start or first half as Howe’s men produced one of the best 45-minute displays in recent history.
Rampant from the first whistle to the last, the hosts looked likely to score every time they ventured forward as the Leeds defence came under constant attack.
The tone was set after just 27 seconds when Marc Pugh’s blistering drive forced Leeds goalkeeper Jack Butland to turn his effort past the post.
And Cherries were rewarded for their breathtaking start when they opened the scoring through Kermorgant after just 66 seconds following a well-worked corner routine.
The Frenchman was on hand to turn the ball past Butland from close range after Francis had met Ian Harte’s flag kick with a rasping volley, Kermorgant registering his fourth goal since his move from Charlton.
Grabban let fly from 25 yards, only to see his effort sail wide, before Rodolph Austin slipped as he tried his luck from distance, his shot – Leeds’s only effort of the first half – failing to trouble Lee Camp.
Leeds relied heavily on pumping a succession of high balls into giant striker Matt Smith but Cherries dealt comfortably with the aerial bombardment during the opening period.
And Howe’s men doubled their lead with a superb sweeping move after 18 minutes, adroitly finished by Grabban for his 16th goal of the season.
The striker tucked a neat right-foot shot past Butland after latching on to Francis’s perfectly-weighted cross, the defender set free by Ritchie’s slide-rule pass down the line.
Cherries were in dreamland – and Leeds in tatters – when Grabban bagged his second and the hosts’ third midway through the first half.
Francis brought up his hat-trick of assists when he found Grabban with an audacious back-heel, the striker firing a low left-foot strike past the shell-shocked Butland.
The goal prompted a chorus of “can we play you every week?” from ecstatic home supporters, while some Leeds fans taunted their own players with chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”.
It could have been worse for the visitors just minutes later when Grabban turned provider for Kermorgant who saw his first-time effort thud against the base of the upright.
The second half continued in the same vein, with Cherries adding to their lead just six minutes after the restart when Kermorgant profited from some more charitable defending.
Although Harte’s free kick appeared to have come to nothing, Ritchie retrieved the ball before despatching a pinpoint cross to the far post where the Frenchman planted an unopposed header into the back of the net.
As Cherries continued to threaten, Butland clawed away a header from Steve Cook after the defender had met Harte’s 65th-minute corner with a powerful header.
Ross McCormack, the Championship’s leading goalscorer, threw the visitors a lifeline when he reduced the deficit after 69 minutes, the Scotsman scoring with their first shot on target.
Tokelo Rantie, on as a replacement for Ritchie, should have made it 5-1 following a slip by Tom Lees, only to be denied by Butland while the goalkeeper also thwarted the South African in stoppage time.
Cherries: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte, Ritchie (Rantie, 78), Surman (O’Kane, 54), Arter, M Pugh, Grabban, Kermorgant (Pitman, 83).
Unused subs: Ward, Smith, MacDonald, Allsop (g/k).
Leeds: Butland, Byram, Lees, Pearce, D Pugh, Mowatt, Murphy (Stewart, 58), Austin, Hunt (White, 58), Smith, McCormack.
Unused subs: Wootton, Walters, Tonge, Zaliukas, Cairns (g/k).
Referee: James Adcock (Nottinghamshire).
Attendance: 10,109 (including 1,338 away supporters).