By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Sports Direct Arena
Newcastle United 2 (Ba 34, 81)
West Bromwich Albion 3 (Odemwingie 20, McAuley 44, Scharner 86)
Demba Ba took his tally for the season to 13, but Newcastle United slipped to a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday night.
Peter Odemwingie gave the visitors the lead against the run of play at the Sports Direct Arena when he strode clear, only for Ba to net a stunning free-kick which levelled things up.
Gareth McAuley nodded home from close range a minute before the break, but Ba equalised again late in the second half.
It looked to have been enough to earn the Magpies at least a point, but they were hit by a sucker punch in the 86th minute when Paul Scharner fired in.
Magpies teenager Haris Vuckic, making his Premier League debut, was straight into the thick of the action. On three minutes the 19-year-old planted a free-kick on to the head of Leon Best but, under pressure, the striker could only direct his effort well over the top.
West Brom were dealt a blow after only seven minutes when full-back Steven Reid limped off, to be replaced by Billy Jones, and United set about trying to take full advantage.
Jonas Gutierrez came inside off the left flank to volley off target, before Baggies keeper Ben Foster had to be quick off his line to smother the ball just before it reached Ba.
The hosts continued to press in search of a breakthrough and Gutierrez met Danny Simpson's right-wing delivery, but his header was never going to trouble ex-Watford stopper Foster.
But despite their early dominance, it was West Brom who took the lead in the 20th minute. Captain Chris Brunt split the Magpies' rearguard with a through ball and Odemwingie held off the attentions of Fabricio Coloccini to slot the ball past Tim Krul and into the bottom corner.
Newcastle's response was immediate and they thought they had got back on level terms within seconds. When a neat flowing move led to Ba rifling home Best's knock down, the Sports Direct Arena errupted, only for a linesman's flag to rule it out after Best strayed just offside.
It wasn't long, however, before Ba bagged goal number 12 of a prolific season. When Gabriel Obertan was upended 20 yards out, Ba took on free-kick responsibilities and smashed an unstoppable strike over the wall, to leave Foster helpless and the ball nestling in the top right-hand corner.
There was a sting in the tail a minute before the break though when West Brom edged in front once more. Brunt's inswinging free-kick towards the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Scharner, and centre-back McAuley was on hand to nod home a simple effort from close range.
There was still time for United to almost equalise once more, as Vuckic fired a thunderous, rising, 30-yard effort goalwards which had Foster beaten, but cannoned off the frame of the goal, with Ba unable to convert a tricky rebound.
After the restart, the hosts - and Ba - continued where they had left off as they applied heavy pressure. Substitute Ryan Taylor won the ball deep in his own half before releasing Ba, who came inside from the left and curled an effort narrowly wide of the far post.
On 52 minutes that man Ba again had the ball in the back of the net, only to be denied for a second time by the linesman's flag, as he strayed a yard offside.
But the Baggies always looked dangerous on the break and should have made it 3-1 when Shane Long sprinted clear and rounded Krul, only to put his strike from a tight angle onto the crossbar, with United eventually scrambling the loose ball to safety.
Best then forced Foster into a low stop, but Newcastle were finding their opponents tough to break down. So manager Alan Pardew introduced the trickery of French international Hatem Ben Arfa, with the forward replacing Best.
And his arrival seemed to give the home side a new spark as they won a handful of corners, but were unable to seriously test the West Brom goal.
Ben Arfa saw a long range shot block, before Cheick Tiote blazed high and wide from a similar distance. And in the 71st minute Gabriel Obertan sent a rising shot over the top after Ben Arfa had cleverly nodded down into his path.
Vuckic was next to try his luck, drilling just off target after picking up on a loose ball, and seconds later Pardew made his third and final throw of the dice, introducing striker Shola Ameobi for winger Gabriel Obertan in a bid to give the Magpies a cutting edge up top.
At the other end, Brunt fired a warning shot of what West Brom were capable of, curling past the far post, and Long capitalised on a Ben Arfa mistake to stride forward and force Krul into a good stop, but it wasn't long before the hosts were back on the front foot.
And they equalised in the 81st minute. Ba and Ben Arfa played a neat one-two on the edge of the box, which finished with Ba drilling home from to draw the hosts level.
United weren't content with a share of the spoils though and went in search of all three points. Vuckic again let fly from distance, only to see Foster equal to his strike which looked destined for the top corner.
But a truly remarkable game took another twist with four minutes remaining. A long ball into the Newcastle box was headed back into the danger zone by Odemwingie, and Scharner nipped in to stab past Krul and give the Baggies the lead for the third time.
Tiote almost silenced the travelling fans straight away when he met Taylor's corner at the near post, but his volley was well stopped by Foster, while Vuckic sent a strike into the side netting as time ran out.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, James Perch, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon (Ryan Taylor 46); Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 72), Haris Vuckic, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best (Hatem Ben Arfa 61), Demba Ba
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Mike Williamson, Mehdi Abeid, Sammy Ameobi
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Ben Foster; Steven Reid (Billy Jones 7), Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson, Nicky Shorey; Jerome Thomas (Graham Dorrans 69), Youssouf Mulumbu (George Thorne 76), Paul Scharner, Chris Brunt (c); Peter Odemwingie, Shane Long
Subs not used: Marton Fulop, Craig Dawson, Marc-Antonie Fortune, Simon Cox
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)
Attendance: 51,060 (800 West Brom)