By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Journalist
At Villa Park
Aston Villa 1 (Agbonlahor 13)
Newcastle United 1 (Best 57)
Leon Best's second half goal earned Newcastle a 1-1 draw away at Aston Villa, and kept the Magpies' unbeaten start to the season in tact.
The striker netted from close range - his third goal of the season - after seeing his initial header saved by Shay Given, and it was no more than United deserved for a performance which provided plenty of attacking threat.
However, they had fallen behind early on when Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced to tuck home a low shot following good work from Barry Bannan, but Yohan Cabaye, Steven Taylor and Demba Ba all went close for the visitors before the break.
Agbonlahor and Darren Bent both had good chances in the second half, while Cabaye forced a wonder save out of Given late on as the sides were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
United chances had been few and far between at QPR on Monday night, but they started brightly in this one and within six minutes midfielder Yohan Cabaye had signalled the visitors' intent. The French international was fed by Leon Best and strode forward before driving an effort inches wide from 20 yards.
Ryan Taylor then struck a free-kick into the wall, before Gabriel Obertan's mishit cross almost caught Shay Given out, with the Villa keeper having to backpedal and tip over the bar.
Despite Newcastle's bright start it was the hosts who took the lead on 13 minutes. Young midfielder Bannan created time and space for himself outside the box before delivering a left-footed cross into the danger zone.
Buoyed by that goal, Villa sparked into life. Bannan wasn't far away with a dipping half-volley from distance, while captain Stiliyan Petrov saw an effort blocked by Steven Taylor.
But Villa went straight up the other end and a rapid break involving Charles N'Zogbia and Petrov should have seen goal number two for the home side, but Darren Bent could only roll his finish agonisingly the wrong side of the upright, with Krul beaten.
Steven Taylor twice threatened to level things up in the space of ten seconds as Newcastle attempted to hit back. The centre-back met Cabaye's corner from just inside the box, only to see Given parry it to safety, and when the loose ball was returned into the box, Taylor hooked his next shot well off target.
In the 33rd minute, Ba was presented with another half-chance, turning on the edge of the box before firing in a shot which was deflected over, after Gabriel Obertan had sprinted fully 40 yards with the ball at his feet to get the visitors back on the attack.
Obertan then turned from provider to poacher as he flashed a half-volley wide after Coloccini had flicked on Cabaye's corner.
It was encouraging stuff from United, particularly from an offensive aspect, but despite a heavy spell of pressure towards the end of the half they were unable to fashion an equaliser.
Villa almost doubled their advantage less than two minutes after the restart through that man Agbonlahor again. Receiving the ball inside the area and with his back to goal, the forward held off a couple of challenges before placing a low strike narrowly wide.
United must have thought that the luck was firmly against them when, in the 57th minute, Cabaye's speculative long-range effort crashed against the crossbar with Given nowhere near it.
But as the hosts failed to clear the loose ball they finally levelled things up, and deservedly so. Cheik Tiote's inswinging cross from the left flank found Best completely unmarked, and although his downward header was well stopped by Given, the front man was on on hand to prod home the rebound from a couple of yards.
On 64 minutes Ryan Taylor failed to find the target with another free-kick, after Best was fouled by Petrov in an inviting position, before Ba stung the palms of Given from 25 yards.
Steven Taylor almost gifted Villa the chance to edge back in front with just under 20 minutes remaining. The centre-back made a hash of a routine ball over the top and managed to shank it into the path of Bent, but the England striker's lob over Krul was wayward, and Taylor managed to get back to ensure the danger was cleared.
At the other end, substitute Shola Ameobi sent a low drive straight at Given, but if that was routine then the keeper saved his best for three minutes from time, producing an outstanding full-length, one-handed stop to claw away Cabaye's long range half-volley.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Shay Given; Alan Hutton, James Collins, Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock; Barry Bannan (Marc Albrighton 68), Stiliyan Petrov (Stephen Ireland 68), Fabian Delph, Charles N'Zogbia; Gabriel Agbonlahor, Darren Bent (Nathan Delfouneso 86)
Subs not used: Brad Guzan, Chris Herd, Shane Lowry, Gary Gardner
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Ryan Taylor; Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez (Sammy Ameobi 85); Leon Best (Shola Ameobi 68), Demba Ba (Sylvain Marveaux 80)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)