Burnley 1 Newcastle 1
Burnley climbed out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone for the first time since September after extending their undefeated run to four matches.
The match itself was unremarkable, an occasionally untidy 1-1 scuffle lit up by George Boyd’s 20-yard opener for the hosts and Yoann Gouffran’s clever flick that teed up Papiss Cisse’s equaliser.
But the significance of escaping the bottom three is huge to Sean Dyche’s Clarets.
A matter of weeks ago they were the only club in English football’s top four tiers not to have won a game, now with eight points from the last 12 on offer they are out of the drop zone.
Hull replace them in 18th place, though they have a chance to change that on Wednesday night.
Burnley’s resurgence has been built around the return to form and fitness of Danny Ings and although absent from the scoresheet he was again in excellent form.
His cushioned header provided Boyd with the chance he needed to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute and whenever the ball came close to him in the final third, he gave fright to the Magpies defence.
But a draw was the right result and Cisse’s fifth of the campaign set Newcastle back on course after a winning run of six matches ended in defeat against West Ham on Saturday.
United boss Alan Pardew was relieved that his worst fears were not realised before kick-off, Daryl Janmaat, Massadio Haidara and Mike Williamson all passed fit.
But he was still without a handful of injured regulars and stand-in goalkeeper Rob Elliot, deputising again for the absent Tim Krul, was called into action in the eighth minute.
David Jones’ one-touch pass set Burnley off in attack, giving Scott Arfield licence to run before touching the ball through for Ings.
With three striped shirts close by, he negotiated room to shoot where a square pass for Boyd might have been the wiser move.
It would not have mattered had his effort nestled in the top corner but Elliot beat the ball away one-handed.
The Clarets continued to probe, Kieran Trippier catching the back four flat with a clever chipped pass that Ashley Barnes could only turn into a corner.
Soon after Barnes flashed over from an even better opening after good hold-up work from Ings.
Newcastle were playing largely on the counter but began to string chances together, Sammy Ameobi stretching Tom Heaton with a skiddy shot across goal and Cisse blazing high into the stands following a deft set-up by Gouffran.
Heaton made a second decent save after 32 minutes, rushing to smother Mehdi Abeid’s toe punt.
But it was Burnley who were playing with greater control and they were rewarded with the opening goal a minute later.
Ings turned Trippier’s speculative long ball into something much more dangerous, winning the aerial battle and cushioning a perfect header into Boyd’s path.
The Scot took a touch out of his feet and fired past the unsighted Elliot from 20 yards for his second of the season.
The lead might have doubled just before the break when another deft touch from Ings invited Jones to shoot, only for the midfielder to miss the target.
Pardew did not hesitate to change things, hauling off Williamson and Ayoze Perez at the break and sending on Steven Taylor and Remy Cabella.
Within three minutes the scores were level.
Cabella nearly made an instant impact, his goalbound shot blocked by Stephen Ward, but the goal arrived seconds later.
Janmaat’s cross was flicked on instincively by Gouffran at the near post and Cisse rifled home from close range.
Immediately the match took on a new complexion, Newcastle finally playing with fluidity rather than rushed breaks.
Burnley were forced back, Cabella revelling in the space behind Cisse and captain Cheick Tiote starting to snap into tackles in the centre.
The home side suffered another setback when Ward hobbled off, handing Ben Mee a first appearance since October 18.
But the fort was holding for Sean Dyche’s men, who were happy to see Abeid twice launch hopeful long-range efforts over the top.
The game began to open up again in the last 20 minutes, Burnley regaining territory and asking questions of their own again.
They also asked for a penalty when Michael Keane’s header hit a Newcastle player at point-blank range but it would have been guesswork by Phil Dowd to call handball.