Ace drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued his goal-scoring spree as he scored a hat-trick to guide favourites India to a convincing 6-2 win over France in an enthralling match of the men's hockey Olympic Qualification tournament here on Tuesday.
It was India's third consecutive win.
India earned four penalty corners in the match and Sandeep (9th minute, 30th, 37th) converted two of them while scoring his third from a penalty stroke.
Shivendra Singh (4th), S V Sunil (39th) and Tushar Khandker (62nd) scored the other three goals for the home team, while Lucas Sevestre (35th) and Fabien Magner (57th) converted two penalty corners for the French team.
By the virtue of Tuesday's three goals, Sandeep has moved to the top of the goal-scorers tally with seven strikes.
With this win, India have moved to the top of the men's pool with nine points from three matches while France dropped to the third spot on goal-difference even though they have same six points as second-placed Canada.
India will play 14th-ranked Canada in a crucial round-robin match on Wednesday, while France (18th ranked) will be up against minnows Italy.
Even though the 10th ranked Indians were by far the better team on display on Tuesday, they lacked co-ordination in the midfield and were guilty of losing possession of the ball in search of quick attacks.
The Indians also missed plenty of scoring chances and wasted two penalty corners out of the four they got in the match.
India, however, started from where they left in the last game and sounded the board as early as in the fourth minute of the match when Shiverndra tapped home from left after receiving a pass from Sarvanjit from inside the circle.
The Indians doubled their lead five minutes later when Sandeep beautifully converted the home team's first penalty corner.
India got a golden chance of extending their lead in the 12th minute when a brilliant solo run by Tushar set it up for an unmarked Sunil inside the circle, but the latter fumbled.
Thereafter, both India and France looked in a hurry to gain control of the midfield and in the pursuit failed to generate threatening moves.
It took India until the 30th minute to make the scoreline 3-0, courtesy a penalty stroke conversion by Sandeep after Sunil was brought down inside the D by a French defender.
The Frenchmen, however, pulled one back just at the stroke of the half time when Lucas Sevestre gleefully converted their second penalty corner.
The Indians started with vengeance after the resumption of play and scored two more goals within a span of three minutes.
Two minutes into the second half, India scored its fourth goal when Sandeep completed his hat-trick, converting the hosts' second penalty corner. Two minutes later an unmarked Sunil scored India's fifth goal from a counter attack.
Shivendra had set it up with an accurate cross from the left and Sunil did the rest after dodging past the France custodian Matthias Dierckens with a deft touch.
France reduced the margin in the 57th minute from their third penalty corner which was accurately converted by Fabien Magner.
The Indians seemed in no mood to sit back on their comfortable lead as they found the opposition net eight minutes from the hooter through Tushar, who scored from top of the D with a powerful hit after being fed by Sarvanjit.
The victory margin could have been bigger had India not missed numerous scoring chances, including two more penalty corners that came their way in the second half.
India are now well in course for a place in Sunday's final as two draws in their next two games will be enough to see them through.