By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United 1 (Cisse 37)
Aston Villa 0
Papiss Cisse's 11th goal of the season has given Newcastle United a 1-0 half-time lead against Aston Villa at St. James' Park.
The Senegales front man netted eight minutes before the break, converting a right-wing centre from Daryl Janmaat, and it came somewhat against the run of play.
Before then, Villa had created the better chances, with striker Christian Benteke a real threat as he went close on two occasions.
Scott Sinclair also threatened, but Cisse showed them how it's done at the other end to give United a lift.
A scrappy opening period saw Villa fashion a chance inside three minutes but Daryl Janmaat's timely intervention at the far post prevented Sinclair turning home a teasing Benteke cross.
United responded and Cisse took Janmaat's delivery on his chest inside the six-yard box and was set to pull the trigger when Alan Hutton prodded off his toe.
On 24 minutes, Benteke sidefooted a volley narrowly wide, having been picked out by Ashley Westwood's superb, diagonal pass, while he went even closer soon after.
As Newcastle failed to properly clear their lines from a quickly-taken free-kick, Mike Williamson's header looped up invitingly for the big Belgian, who didn't need a second invitation to let fly with a spectacular overhead kick that Tim Krul had to claw away.
Villa looked nothing like a team struggling at the wrong end of the table and opened the hosts up in the 35th minute with a fine, flowing move that ended with Krul smothering Sinclair's angled drive.
And two minutes later the visitors were made to pay for not taking their chances, when Cisse broke the deadlock with his 11th goal of the campaign.
Janmaat's cross from the right bounced through the Villa rearguard and landed right at the feet of Cisse, who had found a yard of space between Alan Hutton and Jores Okore.
The Senegalese striker took a touch and duly fired past Brad Guzan at the Leazes End.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Daryl Janmaat, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Massadio Haidara; Gabriel Obertan, Moussa Sissoko, Mehdi Abeid, Sammy Ameobi; Emmanuel Riviere, Papiss Cisse
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Brad Guzan; Alan Hutton, Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Matt Lowton; Tom Cleverley, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph (c), Scott Sinclair; Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor
Subs not used: Shay Given, Leandro Bacuna, Carlos Sanchez, Carles Gil, Jack Grealish, Charles N'Zogbia, Andreas Weimann
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
Bookings: Newcastle - none; Aston Villa - Hutton (26), Lowton (45)