By Tom Easterby - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United 1 (Townsend 58)
Crystal Palace 0
Heroics from Andros Townsend and Karl Darlow at both ends of the pitch helped Newcastle United keep their bid for Barclays Premier League survival on track with a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Townsend's superb 58th-minute free kick - his fourth goal since his arrived in January - won the game for Rafa Benitez's side in front of a packed St. James' Park.
And the Magpies were also indebted to goalkeeper Darlow, who pulled off an excellent save to keep out former United favourite Yohan Cabaye's penalty with 20 minutes left on the clock and make sure his side earned a vital three points.
The result lifted Newcastle out of the drop zone, prior to Norwich City's trip to Arsenal in the day's evening kick-off.
In a free-flowing opening 45 minutes, both Benitez's men and former Newcastle boss Alan Pardew's visitors had fleeting sights of goal, but neither was able to make a breakthrough. Pardew's Eagles, who were deprived of the services of the injured Wilfried Zaha for their trip up to Tyneside, started brightly however, with Papa Souare swinging in a cross from the byline for Jason Puncheon, who couldn't connect cleanly with a volley.
But it took a perfectly timed sliding challenge from Scott Dann to prevent Papiss Cisse from pulling the trigger inside the box just after that though, as the Senegalese frontman - scorer of United's first goal in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool last time out - latched on to Cheick Tiote's pass and turned his man.
At the other end, a similarly vital challenge from Jamaal Lascelles stopped former Sunderland forward Connor Wickham from shooting after Damien Delaney's through ball had presented him with an opening, as the game remained open.
Much of the hosts' most dangerous forays forward involved Townsend, who almost found himself with a scoring opportunity after Georginio Wijnaldum's searching pass, but the ex-Spurs wideman was forced wide of Wayne Hennessey's goal and the chance slipped away.
Darlow was forced into his first meaningful save just before the half hour, batting away Cabaye's fierce strike from a tight angle, before a quick counter attack resulted in winger Yannick Bolasie cutting in from the left and taking aim from distance. The Congolese international's powerful effort, though, just flashed past Darlow's upright.
An end-to-end first period culminated in Chacel Mbemba trying his luck from 30 yards out, which forced Hennessey to dive to his left and push away the centre half's goalbound strike, and Jack Colback's curling effort which was just off target.
Wijnaldum - in for Ayoze Perez in Benitez's only change from the team that drew at Anfield seven days previously - had the first chance of the second half, turning Palace's defence and firing in a shot which was blocked. Then Townsend had a go with his unfavoured right foot, but Hennessey gathered his 20-yarder with ease.
But the next time Townsend took aim, Hennessey couldn't get anywhere near it. The 24-year-old was felled by Dann just outside the box, and he picked himself to curl a stunning free kick into the top left-hand corner, sending a sold-out St. James' Park wild.
However, on 70 minutes Palace were presented with a glorious chance to equalise. Referee Mike Dean adjudged Moussa Sissoko to have handled Cabaye's corner under pressure from Dann, and pointed to the spot.
French midfielder Cabaye - who made almost a century of appearances in black and white before his departure for Paris Saint-Germain in January 2014 - stepped up to take the penalty, but goalkeeper Darlow went the right way, diving to left to parry away the spot-kick in front of the Gallowgate End.
After that miss, Palace upped the ante, with substitute Bakary Sako looking likely to create, but their sporadic threat was nullified expertly by the Newcastle back four of Anita, Mbemba, Lascelles and Paul Dummett, who remained resolute as the hosts dug in to seal the victory.
Newcastle United (4-2-3-1): Karl Darlow; Vurnon Anita (Jonjo Shelvey 88), Chancel Mbemba, Jamaal Lascelles, Paul Dummett; Cheick Tiote, Jack Colback; Andros Townsend, Georginio Wijnaldum (Ayoze Perez 80), Moussa Sissoko (c); Papiss Cisse (Aleksandar Mitrovic 72)
Crystal Palace (4-2-3-1): Wayne Hennessey; Joel Ward, Scott Dann, Damien Delaney, Pape Souare; Mile Jedinak (c), James McArthur (Bakary Sako 60); Jason Puncheon (Dwight Gayle 74), Yohan Cabaye, Yannick Bolasie; Connor Wickham (Emmanuel Adebayor 74)
Unused subs: Alex McCarthy, Adrian Mariappa, Martin Kelly, Joe Ledley
Referee: Mike Dean (Cheshire)