Newcastle revived their bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four with a battling victory over Wolves at St James’ Park.
Substitute Miguel Almiron scored the winner with 12 minutes left as the Magpies ended a run of three straight defeats in all competitions to leapfrog Liverpool into fifth on goal difference and move within four points of fourth-placed Tottenham, who have played two games more.
Hwang Hee-chan, another substitute, had levelled for Wolves seconds after coming on to cancel out Alexander Isak’s towering first-half header.
Wolves were second best for large periods but will feel aggrieved that they were not awarded a penalty, and that Nick Pope was not sent off, when the Newcastle goalkeeper appeared to take down Raul Jimenez six minutes before Isak’s opener, with referee Andy Madley waving away their appeals.
Pope then went on to make a number of fine saves to deny Julen Lopetegui’s sid
Speaking before the game, Eddie Howe said he hoped for a “spark or individual moment” to get his Newcastle team’s flagging season back on track and it arrived courtesy of top scorer Almiron, whose fine individual season continued with an 11th goal of the season.
It is Newcastle’s first win in six games in all competitions and their first home win in the Premier League since a 1-0 victory over Fulham in mid-January.
“The first half performance in general was very good,” Howe told Sky Sports after the game. “Alexander Isak scored a massive goal for us. When it’s a one-goal lead, it’s very delicate. It should have been more at half-time.
“Wolves came back into the game, but the character shown by the group to go again and get the winning goal is a great feeling for us.”
After a quiet start, their opener arrived when Kieran Trippier’s dangerous free kick was met by Isak, who edged clear of his marker and buried a powerful header into the corner.
That sparked Newcastle into life and they came close to a second goal when Bruno Guimaraes hit the bar with a header from close range after Dan Burn had helped Trippier’s corner back into the six-yard box.
Trippier was guilty of a defensive error to allow Wolves to level in the second half when he slipped and collided with Pope as he attempted a clearance, the ball falling at the feet of Hwang, who tapped into an open net seconds after coming on to the pitch.
After Almiron restored Newcastle’s lead, Sven Botman came close to a third in stoppage time when he blazed wide from six yards after some wonderful interplay between the Paraguayan and Guimaraes.
Though Newcastle deserved their victory, Wolves will feel the decisive moment of the match went against them when it was still goalless.
Pope miscontrolled a back pass that was intercepted by Jimenez and the Mexico striker appeared to be bodychecked by the England goalkeeper as he attempted to run on to the ball.
Referee Madley, who was a considerable distance away, waved away their appeals and the video assistant referee did not ask the official to take a second look on the monitor.
“For me, we should have had a penalty. We are very unlucky with the referee,” Lopetegui told Sky Sports.
“In the second half, we improved a lot. We changed a lot of things and were able to get at them.
“It was a pity that we had no changes left to make after they scored. We lost against a very good team.”
Despite going into the game as the Premier League’s lowest scorers, Wolves created a number of decent opportunities, with Daniel Podence hitting the post with a fizzing low drive shortly before the interval, while Pedro Neto and Joao Moutinho drew smart stops from Pope before Hwang’s equalizer.
But the defeat, combined with results elsewhere over the weekend, has allowed a number of teams below Wolves to close the gap in what becoming an unpredictable relegation battle, with just five points separating the bottom nine.
That makes Wolves’ next two matches, against fellow strugglers Leeds and Nottingham Forest, hugely significant as they look to secure a fifth successive season in the top flight.