Newcastle 1 Crystal Palace 0
Logic and Newcastle United have never been the most regular of bedfellows, so it was perhaps fitting that an act of unfathomable reasoning should have such potentially significant ramifications for the continuance of top flight football on Tyneside.
Karl Darlow had a hunch. It turned out to be a pretty good one, and might just have saved Mike Ashley the thick end of £100m.
The hatred flowed from the Gallowgate towards Yohan Cabaye as he stepped up to cancel out Andros Townsend’s stunning free-kick.
Darlow was in possession of the knowledge that the Frenchman had put his last five penalties to the goalkeeper’s right.
Armed with such information, the 25-year-old, Newcastle’s third-choice keeper in only his seventh top flight start, took a decision which defied every last bit of logic about the direction in which he should dive.
Yet as they raised the roof at St James’ Park, 50,000 Geordies were utterly relieved he did.
“It was just instinct,” Darlow revealed. “I knew Cabaye had put his last five the other way but I just had a funny feeling he might go to my left this time so I dived hard that way.
“In your career, you have moments that you’ll always remember and that will be one of them if it helps keep us up.”
Perhaps it was Karma, after the crass way Cabaye went on strike to wriggle out of his Newcastle contract two-and-a-half years ago.
Alan Pardew assumed he’d be the most hated man in NE1 on Saturday, but it wasn’t even close as the popularity of a player known for his looks as ‘dreamboat’ sank without trace.
Rafa Benitez’s rapidly improving side climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time since early February in their bid to avoid a second relegation in seven seasons and the unavoidable financial meltdown it would result in.
They have played a game more than Sunderland and Norwich, the teams immediately below them in the scramble to avoid joining Aston Villa in the Championship next season.
But with a trip to Villa Park next up, the first back-to-back wins for five months, and the untold pressure that would put on their two relegation rivals, is far from a pipe dream.
“It feels good to be out of the bottom three,” Darlow added. “The main thing is being there at the end of the season.
“We need to make sure this club stays in the Premier League and we’ve put ourselves in with a great chance to do that now.”
It would take an unlikely run of results, but Palace can still go down. They performed well enough to debunk the myth peddled by Sam Allardyce they’d be more interested in saving themselves for the FA Cup final than putting their bodies on the line for Premier League points, an accusation dismissed as ‘pre-historic’ by Pardew.
So often the story during four rollercoaster years on Tyneside, Pardew was a largely peripheral figure.
The Crystal Palace manager avoided the post-match press conference, but insisted his record under the Newcastle ‘regime’ stands up to scrutiny.
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Darlow 9; Anita 7 (Shelvey 88, 6), Mbemba 7, Lascelles 8, Dummett 7; Tiote 7, Colback 7; Townsend 8, Sissoko 6, Wijnaldum 6 (Perez 80, 6); Cisse 3 (Mitrovic 72, 6).
Subs not used: De Jong, Taylor, Woodman, Mbabu.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-2-3-1): Hennessey 5; Ward 5, Dann 6, Delaney 6, Soare 6; Cabaye 5, Jedinak 6; Puncheon 6 (Gayle 73, 5), McArthur 6 (Sako 60, 4), Bolasie 6; Wickham 4 (Adebayor 74, 4).
Subs not used: Mariappa, McCarthy, Ledley, Kelley.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral) 5.
Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis: Premier League Player of the season
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved