By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At Goodison Park
Everton 3 (Pienaar 16, Jelavic 27, Heitinga 66)
Newcastle United 1 (Hibbert og 73)
Newcastle United will play Europa League football next season after finishing fifth in the 2011/12 Premier League.
The Magpies suffered a final-day 3-1 defeat at Everton, but that cannot take the gloss off what has been a remarkable season in which Alan Pardew's side have defied the odds to stand toe-to-toe with some of the biggest clubs in the country.
It is an outstanding achievement for the Club, who are only in their second season back in the top flight, and it is a return to European football for the first time since 2007.
At Goodison Park on Sunday, Everton raced into a deserved two-goal first half lead through Steven Pienaar's deflected strike and a Nikica Jelavic effort, but Newcastle improved greatly in the second half.
John Heitinga made it 3-0 to the hosts before a Tony Hibbert own goal reduced the deficit, and left United having to settle for fifth place.
Newcastle had a great chance to break the deadlock inside the opening 40 seconds. Hatem Ben Arfa's inswinging free-kick from the right-touchline was met by Fabricio Coloccini, and struck Toffees defender John Heitinga before rolling towards the goalline, but Tim Howard got down just in time to smother before it crossed.
It was a ferocious opening period which saw Heitinga and Cheick Tiote both booked before the game had even reached the ten-minute mark, while Marouane Fellaini went close for Everton with a looping header from Hibbert's cross.
And the hosts - who had arguably had the better of the early exchanges - opened the scoring on 16 minutes through Pienaar. The South African midfielder was fed by Fellaini 20 yards out and his subsequent strike took a big deflection off United centre-back MIke Williamson as it flew into the top corner, leaving Tim Krul helpless.
Everton should have been two ahead just minutes later. A free-kick to the far post found Leon Osman completely unmarked at the far post, with the winger only able to skew a shot right across the face of goal, before Pienaar - picking up on the loose ball - fired into the side netting.
But Jelavic finally doubled their advantage in the 27th minute, as he raced onto a long ball over the top. And although the Croat's first effort was brilliantly parried by Krul, the big striker was up like a shot to bury the rebound.
It was one-way traffic, and the Toffees weren't done there as Krul had to be alert to get down well at his near post, cutting out Leighton Baines' low delivery before Fellaini could pounce, while Darron Gibson sent an effort wide from distance.
A rare Newcastle chance came in the 35th minute. After Demba Ba had won possession with a good sliding tackle, Gutierrez headed towards the edge of the area before firing across goal but the wrong side of the upright.
Normal service was soon resumed, however, as Krul gathered another Gibson long-ranger, while at the other end on the stroke of half-time, Papiss Cisse drilled off-target from the edge of the area and Ben Arfa curled a free-kick widly over the top.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew made a double substitution at half-time in a bid to revive his side's fortunes. Full-backs James Perch and Davide Santon were replaced by Ryan Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux, and the changes almost made an immediate impact.
Within three minutes of the restart a pumped-up Magpies side threatened through Cisse and Ben Arfa, who both shot wide. Cisse's was the better opening, latching onto a through ball and scuffing a first time strike agonisingly the wrong side of the post.
Everton regained the initiative though and Krul was equal to Gibson's 30-yard free-kick on 59 minutes as the hosts pushed for number three.
The contest was starting to open up and in the 65th minute, following a period of sustained Magpies possession, Demba Ba went close to reducing the arrears with a turn and shot which Howard did well to keep hold of.
But the Toffees went straight up the other end and made it 3-0. Gibson delivered a free-kick from the right channel into the six-yard box and Heitinga powered a close-range header home, which Krul got a hand to but was unable to prevent finding the back of the net.
United were gifted a glimmer of hope by the hosts minutes later through a calamitous own goal. Taylor's long, diagonal ball over the top was slightly out of Cisse's reach, and when Hibbert tried to head it back to Howard, he only succeeded in nodding into his own net.
That goal gave Newcastle a spark, and only the fingertips of Howard prevented an impressive Cisse header finding the top corner with 12 minutes remaining.
The visitors' third and final change of the afternoon came in the way of striker Shola Ameobi for midfielder Tiote, but immediately Krul had to twice keep out efforts from Gibson and Tim Cahill.
Osman hit the post in stoppage time for Everton, before substitute Cahill was given a straight red card on the final whistle, having put his hand in Yohan Cabaye's face.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Tim Howard; Tony Hibbert, John Heitinga (Sylvain Distin 70), Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines; Leon Osman, Phil Neville (c) (Tim Cahill 74), Darron Gibson, Steven Pienaar; Marouane Fellaini; Nikica Jelavic (Denis Stracqualursi 83)
Subs not used: Jan Mucha, Seamus Coleman, Ross Barkley, Magaye Gueye
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; James Perch (Sylvain Marveaux 46), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Davide Santon (Ryan Taylor 46); Hatem Ben Arfa, Cheick Tiote (Shola Ameobi 82), Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez; Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Dan Gosling, Gabriel Obertan
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
Attendance: 39, 517 (3,000 Newcastle)