WOEFUL Wigan were undone by the magic of Luis Suarez who scored a hat-trick and was a constant handful for the Latics, Emmerson Boyce and James McArthur almost coming to blows as Liverpool tore them apart.
Suarez has scored 15 in as many matches in all competitions, which has enhanced his bid to also be crowned player of the year for which he faces stiff competition from Van Persie and Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.
Had Wigan’s leading scorer Arouna Kone shown a semblance of his opposite number’s sharpness the hosts could have been ahead with their first attack but the Ivory Coast striker failed to properly test Jose Reina.
Stewart Downing made them pay as he lost his marker in the penalty area to head home a cross from the impressive Coutinho, making only his third appearance since joining from Inter Milan.
The young Brazilian provided the assist for the 18th-minute second, from Gerrard’s initial pass, with a perfectly-weighted ball into path of Suarez whose control was instant and finish clinical.
Coutinho’s clipped pass over the top almost put Gerrard in for a third before Suarez doubled his tally with a mixture of brilliance and good fortune.
Gary Caldwell clattered the Uruguayan who, after scoring two brilliant free-kicks against Zenit St Petersburg in his last appearance, stepped up again.
He slipped as he connected with the ball but his shot had enough power and curl on it to clip Shaun Maloney on the edge of the wall and beat Ali Al Habsi with the help of the post.
Liverpool were in unfamiliar territory, 3-0 up with 55 minutes remaining and their dominance fully rewarded, but still they ploughed forward and Suarez’s shot was blocked by the Wigan goalkeeper with Caldwell doing just enough to put off Joe Allen.
But for all Suarez’s excellence had it not been for the brilliance of goalkeeper Jose Reina it may have been a less comfortable evening.
The Spain international, having one of his better games this season, had already saved one-handed from Emmerson Boyce’s volley in the 21st minute with the score at 2-0 when he superbly tipped over Franco Di Santo’s header from Jean Beausejour’s cross.
Reina also denied Beausejour’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time before normal service was resumed just four minutes into the second half.
Glen Johnson set off on what is increasingly under Rodgers’ tutelage becoming a trademark surge forward which allowed him to advance more than 40 yards before picking the opportune moment to slide in Suarez.
From the position the striker was in on the right of the area a goal would not normally be a foregone conclusion but the form he is currently in meant there was only going to be one winner between him and Al Habsi as the Oman international lost again.
With Liverpool in cruise control and, understandably, taking their foot off the gas slightly allowed the hosts to improve - although they could not have got much worse - and Reina again showed his agility to deny Maloney’s close-range header.
Victory ensured Liverpool closed the gap on fourth place to nine but with Tottenham playing Arsenal tomorrow it could be back to 10 again very soon.
At the other end of the table Wigan still have plenty of work to do as they remain above the relegation zone on goal difference - significantly damaged by this result.
Twelve months ago they went on a run which claimed 23 points from the last 11 matches, including a win at Anfield, to survive.
If they were planning on a match against the inconsistent Reds to spark that again they were hopelessly mistaken.