Sochaux 0 Newcastle 4
Newcastle turned in a stunning UEFA Cup display to see off Sochaux and book their place in the last 32.
Manager Graeme Souness rested several of his key players with Sunday’s Barclays Premiership clash with Everton in mind, but his faith was richly rewarded as the Magpies drew the sting out of the French side before finishing them off in devastating fashion.
Lee Bowyer opened the scoring against the run of play with 29 minutes gone and Shola Ameobi made it 2-0 within 49 seconds of the restart.
The visitors survived a major scare on 63 minutes when Spanish referee Carlos Megia Davilla awarded a controversial penalty, but midfielder Jeremy Mathieu dragged his effort wide.
Craig Bellamy added insult to injury with the third Newcastle goal 14 minutes from time, before substitute Laurent Robert curled home a brilliant 90th minute free-kick.
Newcastle take on Sporting Lisbon in the final game of their Group D campaign on December 16 with the top spot and an easier draw up for grabs – but Souness will have been delighted with the resilient defensive display which laid the foundation for his finishers to do the trick.
Souness rested some of his key players for the clash, with Sporting Lisbon’s 4-0 win over Dinamo Tbilisi effectively securing the Magpies their place in the last 32 prior to kick-off.
The Scot – already without injured trio Alan Shearer, Stephen Carr and Andy O’Brien – left out Patrick Kluivert, Kieron Dyer, Jermaine Jenas and Robert at the Stade Bonal.
Robbie Elliott replaced the ineligible Ronny Johnsen at the back and took over the captain’s armband, while Nicky Butt, Darren Ambrose, James Milner and Ameobi were handed starts.
Sochaux, who went into the game unbeaten in 11 matches in all competitions, impressed early on.
Midfielder Romain Pitau tested goalkeeper Given with a fifth-minute shot which bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Bowyer earned himself his third European booking of the season and a suspension for an 11th-minute trip on Mathieu.
Ilan caused plenty of problems before Given came to the Magpies’ rescue with 16 minutes gone when he dived full-length to his right to tip away Jeremy Menez’s curling free-kick.
Midfielder Johann Lonfat limped off to be replaced by Fabien Boudarene, but the momentum remained firmly with the home side.
Newcastle first threatened in the 26th minute when Milner picked up possession wide on the left and squared for the fast-arriving Bellamy, but the Welshman skied his left-footed shot over the bar.
The breakthrough finally arrived after 29 minutes, Bowyer slamming a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Teddy Richert after Ameobi challenged Gregory Paisley for Bowyer’s high ball and managed to get the better of the defender.
It should have been 2-0 within two minutes after Given found Bellamy and he hooked the ball across for Milner, but the teenager blasted his effort over from point-blank range.
Given had to be at his best to preserve his side’s lead seconds later when Ilan again made space for himself and fired in a low drive which the Irishman blocked with his right foot.
The goalkeeper was the saviour again nine minutes before the break when he just got his fingers to Michael Isabey’s cross with Ilan unmarked at the far post.
Newcastle doubled their lead within 49 seconds of the restart, after full-back Olivier Bernard found space on the left and crossed into the box, where Paisley sliced his attempted clearance.
The ball flew across the six-yard box and with keeper Richert in no man’s land, the unmarked Ameobi slotted home at the far post.
It was the England under-21 striker’s 10th goal in Europe and put him level with Wyn Davies in second place in the club’s all-time list – behind Shearer.
Impressive Nigerian midfielder Wilson Oruma hammered a long range effort just wide on 56 minutes, before Santos replaced Menez seconds later.
It took the substitute barely a minute to make an impact, forcing Elliott into a desperate block, but the Magpies were looking well organised.
Bowyer’s evening came to an early conclusion on 62 minutes when he was replaced by Dyer.
Newcastle found themselves up against it seconds later when Megia Davilla awarded a penalty for an apparent tug on Isabey’s shirt – but Mathieu dragged his left foot shot wide of the post.
Oruma and Boudarene threatened as the home side committed men to the attack - and the visitors exploited the extra space to superb effect 14 minutes from time.
Dyer broke from central midfield and allowed full-back Aaron Hughes to spring the offside trap and square for Bellamy to net.
The fight had gone out of the home side and their plight worsened in the final minute with Robert’s inch-perfect free-kick.