Newcastle ended a turbulent week by moving back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 1-0 victory over Derby to ensure an unhappy return to St James' Park for Steve McClaren.
Much of the pre-match build-up centred on McClaren's successor at Newcastle, Rafael Benitez, refusing to give long-term assurances over his future after the Magpies failed to add any reinforcements to their squad in the January transfer window.
Any concerns that angst would transfer onto the field were dispelled when Matt Ritchie registered his sixth goal in his last five games, with his strike from just outside the area taking a vital deflection off Bradley Johnson and looping over goalkeeper Scott Carson in the 27th minute.
Aleksandar Mitrovic wasted a gilt-edged opportunity to put the hosts further ahead at the beginning of the second half and the Magpies survived a few nervy moments in the closing stages to move above Brighton, who can go back to the summit with victory at Brentford on Sunday afternoon.
The Magpies were further boosted by third-placed Reading being held to a 2-2 draw at Ipswich although the Royals twice had to come from behind to claim a share of the spoils.
Tom Lawrence broke the deadlock two minutes before the interval in spectacular style, driving forward from midfield before firing into the net via the underside of the bar, and his cool finish gave Town the lead just after the hour mark, following Jordon Mutch's leveller.
But Reading got onto level terms again 12 minutes before the final whistle when Jordan Obita drilled home after a corner was half cleared as Reading ended the day six points behind leaders Newcastle.
At the other end of the table, Burton remain three points clear of the drop zone after Cauley Woodrow's last-gasp strike gave the Brewers a 2-1 win over Wolves at the Pirelli Stadium..
The visitors took a 40th-minute lead through Helder Costa's penalty, following Jon McLaughlin's foul on Dave Edwards in the area, but Michael Kightly levelled on the hour mark before Woodrow grabbed a late winner in the fourth minute of time added on.
Bristol City are also three points clear of the bottom three after Milan Djuric's 73rd-minute header gave the Robins a 1-0 win over Rotherham in a drab game, which means Blackburn remain in the final relegation spot despite Sam Gallagher's strike in the first minute of stoppage time giving Rovers victory by the same scoreline over QPR.
Norwich moved up to seventh courtesy of a third successive win, with Cameron Jerome's first-half header sealing a 1-0 triumph at Cardiff, which was the same scoreline at St Andrew's as Lukas Jutkiewicz's goal lifted Birmingham past Fulham, who finished the game with 10 men after Ryan Fredericks' dismissal.
Barnsley and Preston, both outside chances for a play-off spot, failed to enhance their causes following a goalless draw at Oakwell.
Teenage substitute Ben Brereton's stoppage-time goal completed Nottingham Forest's comeback in their 2-1 win at home to 10-man Aston Villa.
Brereton's winner took Forest up to 15th, level with Villa and eight points clear of the relegation positions
Jonathan Kodjia put Steve Bruce's men in front in the 19th minute, but in-form striker Britt Assombalanga equalised just before half-time.
Jack Grealish was then sent off after a second yellow card in the 78th minute, and deep into added time Brereton made Villa pay as their sequence without a win extended to seven matches.