Andros Townsend's stunning free-kick dragged Newcastle out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone as Rafael Benitez's rescue mission gathered pace with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The £12million January signing struck with 58 minutes gone - his third goal in five games - to give the home side a precious lead, but it took a 70th-minute penalty save by Karl Darlow to deny Magpies old boy Yohan Cabaye an equaliser.
Former Magpies head coach Alan Pardew enjoyed a relatively low-key return to Tyneside, with his presence barely acknowledged by a home crowd with rather bigger issues at stake.
After chances at both ends, Townsend broke the deadlock in style after 58 minutes when, after being fouled by Scott Dann, he curled a superb free-kick past the helpless Wayne Hennessey.
Palace fought for a way back into the game as an increasingly nervous Newcastle dropped ever deeper in an attempt to preserve their lead, and the Eagles got their chance were awarded a penalty for handball by Moussa Sissoko as he challenged Dann with 20 minutes remaining.
However, Darlow dived to his left to keep out Cabaye's effort as St James' breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Victory, coupled with Sunderland's draw at Stoke, eased Newcastle out of the bottom three ahead of Norwich's trip to Arsenal and left the bulk of a crowd of 52,107 dreaming of a great escape with just two games remaining.
Jermain Defoe's injury-time penalty to earn Sunderland a potentially priceless point at Stoke was not enough to prevent them from dropping into the relegation zone.
The Potters looked on course for victory after Marko Arnautovic gave them the lead five minutes into the second half but Defoe made it 1-1 having won the spot-kick himself after going down under a challenge from Geoff Cameron.
At the other end of the table West Ham sent out a European warning as they powered into fifth place with an impressive win at West Brom, for whom Jonathan Leko was handed his full debut and became the first player born in 1999 to start a Premier League game.
Mark Noble's double and Cheikhou Kouyate's strike gave the Hammers a 3-0 victory which sent them above Manchester United on goal difference.
United will retake fifth spot if they avoid defeat at home to champions-elect Leicester on Sunday but Slaven Bilic's side kept up the pressure and they have lost just once in their last 13 games in all competitions.
They face United in their final game at Upton Park on May 10 in what is set to become a winner-takes-all clash.
Left-back Leighton Baines' first goal since November 2014 secured Everton's first home league victory since early February - 2-1 against Bournemouth - but it was not enough to prevent growing opposition to Roberto Martinez's continued reign as manager.
A plane flying the banner 'Roberto must go' was followed by a handful of fans in the Gwladys Street End holding up 'Martinez Out' signs and chanting 'Get out of our club' at the end of the game.
Only five home league wins in the last 12 months tells its own story and it is unlikely Baines' goal, after Marc Pugh had cancelled out Tom Cleverley's strike inside the opening 10 minutes, will ease the pressure.
Troy Deeney scored two late goals to condemn Aston Villa to a club record 11th straight defeat.
Deeney, a boyhood Birmingham fan, stuck the knife into the team he loves to score against more than any other as Watford twice came from behind to emerge 3-2 winners.
Relegated Villa were leading with just five seconds of normal time remaining thanks to goals from Ciaran Clark and Jordan Ayew, either side of Almen Abdi's free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
But the beleaguered midlanders, who had Aly Cissokho sent off with 15 minutes left, could not hold on as Deeney's double, with his second goal coming in the third minute of injury time, piled on the agony.