By Dan King
Alan Pardew selected virtually a full-strength side and warned that Stevenage could not be taken lightly, but Newcastle still exited the FA Cup at the third round stage to the League Two midtable side.
Broadcast live on television and played in front of a full house at the Lamex Stadium, it was perhaps the biggest result in the home side's history and it was no less than they deserved on a night when United were way below par and battling Boro were inspired.
The Magpies were arguably fortunate to go in at half-time level but had no answer to Stevenage's second-half show. And to make matters worse, Cheik Tiote was harsly sent off shortly after coming on as a substitute, meaning he will now miss next weekend's derby at Sunderland unless the club can successfully overturn referee Andre Marriner's decision.
Joey Barton offered scant consolation with a stunning 30-yard swerving strike, but it was nothing more than a consolation, while 19-year-old striker Phil Airey made his first-team debut as a substitute.
The day had started so well, with the atmosphere building in and around the ground several hours before kick-off and almost 1,500 Newcastle fans making the journey south and getting the chance to greet Kevin Keegan with a great ovation as he covered the game in ESPN's makeshift studio in the corner of the ground.
And Newcastle started the game in the manner one would expect of a Premier League team fresh from a 5-0 midweek win playing a League Two outfit.
With Wayne Routledge and Danny Simpson combining well down the right, United carved out a handful of opportunities in the opening few minutes and Joey Barton saw a shot from just outside the box well saved by Boro keeper Chris Day after the pair had combined well.
Boro gave the visitors a shot across the bows when Scott Laird's cross-shot almost crept in, only for Krul to beat it away, but Newcastle continued to attack and from Routledge's cross, Lovenkrands almost connected with a diving header before Barton sent a half-volley wide.
However, having survived the opening 20 minutes Stevenage visibly grew in confidence, a point illustrated as Stacy Long embarked upon a wonderful weaving run through the defence which was only ended by a last-ditch Fabricio Coloccini tackle. Then the Argentine made a vital headed interception to prevent Jon Aston's cross from finding a team-mate.
Michael Bostwick then brought a fine save from Tim Krul with a stinging low shot which looked to be heading in until Krul flung himself right to fingertip it behind, and the sides went in at half-time level.
Nile Ranger came on at the interval for Leon Best, who had been given little opportunity to repeat his hat-trick heroics from midweek, but within five minutes of the restart the home side were in front. Long's long shot looked to be testing Krul anyway, but took a massive deflection off Mike Williamson to wrongfoot the Dutch keeper and land in the net.
Kevin Nolan almost offered an immediate reply, but his effort was tipped over by Day, before another long-range goal left United with a mountain to climb. This time Bostwick, who had already shown that he could strike from range, was given too much time to line up a shot and it cracked in off the post to make it 2-0.
Boro had their tails up, with James Perch having to block Chris Beardsley's header on the line with his legs to prevent a third, and Cheik Tiote came on for Alan Smith as Pardew aimed to bolster his midfield. But the Ivory Coast man was shown a red card after just ten minutes after his tackle on Ashton was deemed reckless, even though he clearly won the ball.
Amble-born Airey, who has been prolific at youth and Reserve level over the past couple of years since being converted to a forward from a right-back, was given his debut in place of Lovenkrands, and looked bright in the short period he played.
But Newcastle now looked bereft of confidence or ideas, and even United's best player Krul had caught the bug as his awful kick went straight to ex-Gateshead forward Peter Winn, who ran through and should have scored, but Perch got back well to put him off his stride.
In stoppage time, Barton offered a glimmer of home with his glorious goal, which swerved past Day with hardly any backlift, but moments later the game was won as Winn raced onto a pass to dink over Krul. It completed an awful day for North-East football - Sunderland lost to Notts County, Middlesbrough lost to Burton Albion - but this was surely the shock of the round.