A magnificent free-kick from Andros Townsend and a dramatic penalty save from Karl Darlow earned Newcastle United a priceless 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in their battle against Premier League relegation.
Winger Townsend curled home from 25 yards out early in the second half on Saturday and that strike proved decisive thanks to the exploits of goalkeeper Darlow, who got down to save a poor penalty from ex-Newcastle star Yohan Cabaye with 20 minutes remaining.
Victory saw the hosts take full advantage of Sunderland’s draw at Stoke City to move out of the bottom three ahead of Norwich City’s game at Arsenal later in the day.
Rafael Benitez has now accumulated eight points from his last four matches, giving Newcastle a strong chance of avoiding the drop with only two games left to play.
FA Cup finalists Palace have picked up the joint fewest points, along with relegated Aston Villa, among top-flight sides in 2016 and are still waiting to mathematically ensure their own safety after suffering defeat on Alan Pardew’s first return to St James’ Park since leaving Newcastle.
Georginio Wijnaldum – returning to the team in Benitez’s only change – saw an early effort saved by Wayne Hennessey.
Palace, who also made only one switch to their team as James McArthur came in for the unfit Wilfried Zaha, almost celebrated Cabaye striking against his former club, only for the France international to be denied by a strong one-handed save from Darlow.
Yannick Bolasie hit a thunderbolt just wide after a surging solo run and then tested Darlow with another well struck effort later in the first half.
At the other end, Jack Colback curled narrowly off-target with his left foot after Jamaal Lascelles had created a decent opening for the midfielder.
Newcastle took the lead 10 minutes into the second half. After Townsend had been brought down by Scott Dann, he stepped up and delivered a wonderful, curling free-kick that beat Hennessey and found the far corner.
With the home side seemingly heading towards victory, the match took a dramatic twist when Cabaye floated in a corner and referee Mike Dean adjudged that Moussa Sissoko had handled as he rose to try and clear.
But Cabaye’s spot-kick lacked conviction as Darlow dived to his left to make a crucial block, with the home crowd erupting.
Palace brought on Emmanuel Adebayor, Dwight Gayle and Bakary Sako in an attempt to find an equaliser, but they would not recover from Cabaye’s miss as Newcastle took a major step towards safety.