Newcastle manager Bobby Robson gambled on a recall for Kieron Dyer in place of enigmatic Frenchman Laurent Robert as the Magpies’ desperate Champions League chase took them to Southampton.
They also need to beat Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday to snatch fourth position in the Premiership but were still without a host of first-teamers such as Jonathan Woodgate, Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Jenas.
But Saints, with Michael Svensson, Rory Delap and Marian Pahars still missing and Danny Higginbotham the latest casualty after an appendix operation, were also struggling for personnel and Finn goalkeeper Antti Niemi’s late withdrawal with a virus made things a good deal worse.
With number two Paul Smith out nursing a gashed arm, Northern Ireland Under-21 international Alan Blayney made his Premiership debut in goal, with youth team goalkeeper Michael Poke on the bench.
Boss Paul Sturrock, however, still risked reducing his fire-power by starting Kevin Phillips on the bench to give Brett Ormerod a run up front.