Manchester City 3 Newcastle 0
Joey Barton turned the jeers to cheers and left Newcastle boss Graeme Souness to feel the wrath of his own fans instead.
Barton’s shock transfer request and subsequent attack on City staff with agendas against him brought predictable “greedy” taunts from his own fans and there were still plenty of boos when he left the field 13 minutes from time.
But after an eventful evening which saw him arrive by a service entrance, set up Albert Riera’s opener, earn a yellow card and also accidentally barge into referee Chris Foy, there were even louder cheers as he departed, which is more than can be said for Souness.
Pitiful from start to finish, the visitors were comprehensively beaten as Andy Cole and Darius Vassell followed up Riera’s opener to extend a miserable run which has seen the Magpies pick up just a single point from their last six Premiership game.
Newcastle have now slipped to sixth from bottom, raising more question marks over the future of a man who was supposed to deliver Champions League combat to St James’ Park.
If there was one man who could offer Barton some advice about handling abuse from his own fans it is Souness.
The visiting boss has spent most of the season defending himself from intense flak as Newcastle’s campaign lurches from one disaster to another.
It is only nine days ago that Souness was summoned to a meeting with chairman Freddie Shepherd which many thought would result in him getting the sack.
After a quick cup of tea, Souness survived, since when the Magpies have beaten Cheltenham in a tricky FA Cup tie, then been handed a very winnable fifth-round encounter with Southampton.
But any suggestion the Tynesiders’ present troubles are over would be a total misjudgement and City took maximum advantage in a one-sided first half which should have taken the game well beyond the visitors.
After a tepid opening, during which the only notable moments came through the noise that rolled round the ground every time Barton touched the ball, City took the lead with Riera’s first goal for the club.
It was typical that Barton should be involved, overlapping Trevor Sinclair down the right flank before cutting back a cross Cole missed but Riera did not.
Reviews of the Spaniard’s time at City since his arrival on loan from Espanyol have been mixed, but there was nothing wrong with the volley which arrowed in the corner.
Chances came and went for the hosts after that, with a good Shay Given stop denying Darius Vassell, who was also prevented from being set up with a tap-in by Cole when Titus Bramble stretched a leg out.
But Bramble and much-derided defensive partner Boumsong were having one of their regular bad nights, contributing to a constant sense of frailty about the Newcastle defence.
The Magpies rearguard seemed incapable of winning any individual battles and when Celestine Babayaro failure to even jump for Vassell’s chipped cross seven minutes before the break, Cole instantly nodded home his 10th goal of the season.
Trevor Sinclair might have added to City’s tally before the interval but despite the half-time introductions of Nolberto Solano and Albert Luque, Newcastle remained on the back foot after the re-start too.
In his ill-advised morning-of-the-match address on satellite TV, Barton had hinted he felt he was the best player on the Blues staff.
It was a stunning statement given his lack of medals or international honours. Cole is surely far more deserving of the tag despite his 34 years.
The former Newcastle hero has not just contributed goals to City’s cause this season but nous and invention, something his old club need desperately right now.
When a visiting attack broke down close to the City box and Riera ferried the ball into his path, Cole instantly spotted Vassell’s run, lifted a pass over Boumsong which allowed his strike partner to beat his opponent for pace and then slip a neat shot under Shay Given.
It marked the end of any Newcastle resistance and also allowed Blues boss Stuart Pearce to take off Cole, and Barton, whose sponsors man-of-the-match award was sympathetic to say the least but recognition for the industry which makes him an important, if not indispensable, member of the current City squad.