An ugly game played against an angry backdrop of renewed resentment towards those who continue to suffocate Newcastle United’s sense of ambition ended in a vital victory for Rafa Benitez’s side.
In the wider context of Newcastle’s season, this was not only their most convincing win of the season, it was also the most important, allowing them to claw their way out of the bottom three, over the shoulders of Cardiff City, who drop back into the relegation zone.
It was fully deserved too, yet the mood on Tyneside remains volatile and opposition is once again hardening towards owner Mike Ashley. The billionaire has once again failed to find a buyer for the club and has, so far, also chosen to once more ignore the pleas from Benitez for new signings to be made this month. Their relationship remains ridiculously dysfunctional.
Quite where the sense in this strategy lies, nobody but Ashley seems to know, but things would have been even worse had the Magpies lost to the team sitting directly above them in the table before kick-off.
Newcastle remain vulnerable, they are not a very good side, but they have heart, spirit and a togetherness that is impossible not to admire. Those are the qualities that enabled them to triumph here and secure only their third home win of the season. They are also the qualities that are most likely to keep them in the top flight.