Newcastle moved out of the relegation zone as Andros Townsend’s strike and Yohan Cabaye’s penalty miss helped them to victory over Crystal Palace.
With Norwich playing at Arsenal later and Sunderland drawing at Stoke, the Magpies moved into 17th – a point clear of the Black Cats.
Townsend gave Newcastle the lead after the break with a magnificent 20-yard free-kick.
Karl Darlow then came to the rescue when he saved Cabaye’s poor penalty.
A new hope
They had been written off by pundits and even some of their fans had stopped believing but, on a sunny spring day at St James’ Park, Newcastle provided another twist in this fascinating Premier League season.
Until the second half it had been an error-ridden display by the Magpies, whose midfield were overrun by their Palace counterparts.
However, as they have in recent matches, Newcastle improved tenfold after the break and it was their January signing Townsend who caused the ground to erupt in the 58th minute when he cracked home a stunning free-kick from the right.
It was his fourth in 11 games for his new team – more than the three in 50 he managed for Tottenham.
Third-choice keeper saves the day
As if matters on the pitch have not been bad enough, Newcastle have also been very unlucky with injuries to their goalkeepers this campaign.
Both Tim Krul, in October, and then Rob Elliot, in March, were ruled out for the season which handed 25-year-old Darlow a chance in between the sticks.
Like team-mate and another former Forest player, Jamaal Lascelles, he has grasped the opportunity and understood the perilous situation like a seasoned professional.
Against Palace, he pulled off arguably the most important save of his career when he dived to his left to block ex-Magpie Cabaye’s 70th-minute spot-kick after Moussa Sissoko was penalised for handball.
He also looked assured in the final moments as Palace flung in balls in a desperate attempt to get something from this encounter.
Palace in no-man’s land
Palace are highly unlikely to go down, but Alan Pardew’s side are making hard work of reaching that 40-point mark.
They were largely untroubled in the first half, but their insistence on slowing the tempo not only riled the home fans but also meant they under-utilised the pace they possessed in attack, which is their key weapon.
The FA Cup finalists have another big Wembley day out to look forward to in May, but as a top-flight side?
Man of the match – Karl Darlow
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez:
“We still have to play another two games. We will enjoy this weekend because we won and then we will focus on the next one against Aston Villa, which will be a tough one.
“The victory means a lot – it gives us momentum, confidence and a connection with the fans.
“Hopefully it will be the same against Tottenham when we can avoid relegation and everyone will be happy.
“The free-kick was fantastic and the penalty save. I was really pleased for them. Hopefully Karl does not need to save any more until the end of the season.”
Palace boss Alan Pardew:
“For long periods we looked in control of the game, especially in the first half.
“They had a good spell in the second half. The crowd got involved and they scored right at the end of that period. We needed to score and we didn’t. The game came down to two set-plays and that is the margin we are at.
“This was a tight game. Rafa has improved Newcastle in terms of the defensive structure. It is difficult to get at them and they have edged a win here.
“I thought the reception I got was muted, which was nice. A lot of people understand that I managed here to the best of my ability and we had some good times that I lean on.”
The stats you need to know
- Newcastle have gone four games unbeaten in the Premier League for the first time since October-November 2014.
- The Eagles haven’t won a Premier League away game since 19 December 2015 – they have picked up just five points in 10 road trips since.
- Six of Townsend’s nine Premier League goals have been scored from outside the box.
- Palace have conceded in each of their past nine Premier League games on the road.
- Cabaye had scored his previous four penalties in the Premier League before today’s miss v Newcastle.
Newcastle are at relegated Aston Villa next Saturday and Palace have a home game against Stoke.