Newcastle 4-1 Brighton: Late goals from Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes seal crucial win for Toon as they move four points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool in race for Champions League places
So much for that nonsensical routine of refusing to celebrate against your former club.
Dan Burn needed restraining come the end and, when that failed, his Newcastle team-mates left him to it, roaring like a lion in front of the stands where he sat as a boy.
Either Burn forgot he had ever played for Brighton, or simply didn’t care. Given this was a goal that helped move his boyhood club to within one win of the Champions League – a competition he watched from those terraces the last time they played in it – you can assume it was the latter.
Good on him, too. Burn probably thought the closest he would ever get to Europe was the four years he spent on the south coast with the Seagulls.
Now, he and Newcastle have to beat one of Leicester, back here on Monday, or Chelsea away on the final day to guarantee a top-four finish.
And how they deserved their victory, blowing away Brighton in the closing stages as Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes added the goals to plant one foot firmly on European soil.
Newcastle have never lost a night game at St James’ Park under Eddie Howe. There is something about the floodlights that makes the team burn that little bit brighter. Their season, though, had started to flicker, one point from their last two games allowing Liverpool – and Brighton – to make the cushion to fifth a little uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago, Brighton were a mathematical headache for Newcastle. They could, in theory, catch them, even that was highly unlikely. But coming into this game they were starting to feel more like a pain in the backside.
A good season in recent years for these clubs would be to enter the final few matches already on the beach. They were on the beach here – Normandy, that is. For this was a genuine battle to take control of the European places.
Come the end, it was the home fans singing about Italy, even if they did have to clear their throats to enjoy those late goals after a nervy period in which Brighton pressed for an equaliser.
Newcastle (4-3-3): Pope 6; Trippier 8, Schar 6.5, Botman 7, Burn 7.5; Willock 6.5 (Anderson 60), Guimaraes 7, Joelinton 7; Almiron 7.5, Wilson 7.5, Isak 7
Subs: Dubravka, Dummett, Gordon, Saint-Maximin, Lewis, Targett, Manquillo, Anderson, Miley
Scorers: Undav OG 22, Burn 45, Wilson 89, Guimaraes 90
Bookings: Guimaraes, Schar
Manager: Eddie Howe 7
Brighton (4-2-3-1): Steele 7; Caicedo 6, Van Hecke 6, Dunk 6, Estupinan 5.5; Gilmour 6.5 (Mac Allister 57, 6), Gross 5.5 (Offiah 69, 5); Buonanotte 5 (Enciso 57, 5), Undav 4.5, Mitoma 5; Welbeck 5 (Ferguson 57, 5)
Subs: McGill, Ayari, Moran, Peupion, Samuels
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 5
Scorers: Undav 51
Ref: Robert Jones
Att: 52, 122
But the majority of the game had belonged to the brilliant hosts. Brighton’s commitment to playing out from their goalkeeper should be applauded – at least by thrill-seekers. It’s wonderful entertainment, as if they’re working to the belief that five passes in the penalty area equals a goal. It doesn’t, it simply increases the chances of the opposition scoring one.
Newcastle’s trigger to press Brighton was simple – whenever they had the ball. Not once did the visitors beat that suffocating surge of black-and-white jerseys. If anything, come the moment of the opening goal on 22 minutes, they were no doubt grateful for the breather before the restart.
The corner from which Kieran Trippier delivered and Deniz Undav headed into his own net at the near post had come from a failed attempt to pass out from the back. Not that Brighton called time on the self-harm.
Undav’s night went from bad to worse when he was booked for a clumsy trip on Joe Willock and he could only watch as Burn headed in from Trippier’s free-kick in first-half stoppage-time.
The German striker did restore some personal pride when, six minutes after half-time, he raced clear and finished beneath Nick Pope from Billy Gilmour’s pass.
It was Brighton’s first attack of note and, encouraged by that success, Roberto De Zerbi brought on the three players who probably should have started – Alexis Mac Allister, Evan Ferguson and Julio Enciso. They immediately looked far more dangerous and, as the game became ragged, a Brighton leveller appeared more and more likely. If only they had shown this attacking intent from the start.
Howe was visibly agitated, with his players and the officials, more so than he ever usually is. But the manager’s calm was restored as bedlam raged around him as Wilson finished from Miguel Almiron’s through-ball and the scorer turned provided for Guimaraes, burying from close range in injury-time.
But the home fans only wanted to serenade one man on full-time. Burn, the boy from Blyth, looks set for Barcelona.