It wasn’t pretty at times but Newcastle claimed all three points for the first time in their last 10 matches with a win against West Ham United.
All of the pre-match talk around the Magpies was around the surprise inclusion of Henri Saivet in the starting lineup, with Rafa Benitez hoping the Senegalese midfielder could offer up some kind of impact.
He certainly didn’t disappoint, though initially for all the wrong reasons.
A lazy pass straight to West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic on the halfway line allowed the Austrian striker to drive all the way to the box – with no Newcastle players daring to put a tackle in – and slot the ball into the net.
That was in just the sixth minute of the game, and given recent form, Newcastle fans can be forgiven for presuming Saivet had doomed us to another away defeat.
However, just four minutes later, that same man chose to redeem himself. And redeem himself he did.
The Magpies won a free-kick about 25-yards out and everyone presumed Matt Ritchie was set to take it, ignoring Saivet was even at the ball.
Saivet did take it, however, and curled a stunning effort over the wall and into the bottom corner.
Adrian didn’t have a chance of getting to the ball in the West Ham, such was the technique of the free-kick. It was a magnificent goal and an unbelievable way to redeem oneself for the shocking mistake earlier.
Ten minutes had passed by that point and it was entirely the Henri Saivet show.
Newcastle then remembered we had ten other players on the pitch, and with everyone beginning to get involved, West Ham were pushed onto the ropes.
A lovely flowing move first saw DeAndre Yedlin flick a ball towards Dwight Gayle, whose effort struck the bar, before Matt Ritchie had an attempt cannon against the post.
It seemed only a matter of time for Newcastle, but the sides went into the break level.
The second-half was much of the same, with all the attacking play going Newcastle’s way in the beginning.
That pressure paid off when Christian Atsu showed some beautiful control to break into the box and his pull back was powered home by Mo Diame.
His celebrations against his former team were muted, but for everyone else in black and white there was an outpouring of relief.
Finally, we had seen Newcastle take advantage of being on the front foot in a game and taken the lead.
We had seen the team fight back, and we were seeing an attacking threat that offered some hope towards the goal of Premier League survival.
West Ham tried to respond, and were given a golden opportunity almost immediately through an atrocious piece of refereeing.
Ciaran Clark brought down Michail Antonio, there was no denying that, but it was a tackle that clearly occurred outside the box.
Referee Lee Mason likely didn’t see that, and took a long time to decide on the penalty, but the linesman has to see it. He is supposed to be in line with the ball, and therefore should be very aware that he was about two yards outside the edge of the box.
Luckily an appalling penalty from Andre Ayew proved no challenge for Rob Elliot, who batted the ball clear, and justice was in some small part done.
West Ham kept pushing, though, and managed themselves a few shots and corners. That proved to be their downfall, however.
A corner was swung in by Aaron Cresswell, hitting the first man rather than targeting West Ham’s clear outlet in Andy Carroll, and Newcastle launched a counterattack.
That counterattack, with its fluidity and penetration, was a thing to behold – it wouldn’t have looked out of place if the team was wearing light blue – and it was rounded off by an Atsu finish from the six yard box.
It was that which was most impressive about the attack. It began with a corner to West Ham and within a matter of twenty seconds or so was ended with a Newcastle goal scored from the six yard box.
It was the kind of fast-paced attacking the Premier League demands, and the first real glimpse of a dangerous element to this Newcastle side.
Leicester won the Premier League with attacks exactly like that, and it might just prove to be the kind of thing that keeps us in that very same tournament.
Atsu, too, deserves his mention because he was unplayable against at times today. We missed him dearly when he was injured and today proved exactly why.
He had a driving threat, a penetration and purpose to his attacks, along with his pace. He offers a threat and an outlet on the wing, whether it is scoring or assisting – which he managed both of today.
At 3-1 up Newcastle looked on course for their first win since October but as is ever the case with the Magpies it wasn’t to be done easily.
Another Cresswell corner came in, and this time managed to reach intended target Carroll, whose header was well-saved by Elliot.
Unfortunately for the Newcastle goalkeeper the ball rolled into the path of Ayew, who from around eight yards out smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
A frantic closing spell then ensued, but the Magpies clung on to record a vital win – three points against a relegation rival, and hopefully an end to a horrendous run of form for Benitez’s side.
It was a much-improved performance and offered some real glimmers of hope for Newcastle fans – who have had to suffer with abject disappointment and inadequacy in recent games – as well as moving the side out of the relegation places and up to 15th in the table.
Naturally though, as is the way with the unforgiving Premier League, Newcastle next face high-scoring and clinical Manchester City, so expectations of changing the Magpies’ fortunes currently remain muted among the fans.