St. James' Park
Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall, at St. James' Park.....
Newcastle slipped to their first defeat in five games as they went down 2-1 against Everton at St. James' Park.
Leon Osman finished off a counter-attack for the Toffees, before Phil Jagielka netted from close range to make it two goals in just six minutes which was ultimately enough to secure all three points.
Both teams had chances after the break, but Newcastle were not able to sufficiently trouble Everton keeper Tim Howard.
A disjointed opening spell saw both sides unable to string together any decent amount of possession, and the closest either team came to troubling the scorers was on 14 minutes when Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell was inches away from connecting with a Leon Osman cross.
The visitors grew in confidence and three minutes later when they broke at pace Louis Saha fed the ball wide to Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard was afforded the time and space to cut in from the left and, having ridden a couple of challenges, forced a superb one-handed save from Steve Harper, who clawed the goalbound effort out of the top corner.
Jack Rodwell flashed a long range effort wide of the target, but on 23 minutes Newcastle took the lead completely against the run of play.
A short free-kick was worked wide to Jonas Gutierrez, who then played in Mike Williamson just inside the area. The centre-back opted for a short pass to Kevin Nolan, who stung the palms of Toffees' keeper Tim Howard with a drive across goal.
And as the stopper tried to beat away his effort, Best was on hand to stoop and head home his sixth goal of the campaign.
Everton were level right on the half-hour mark. As a Newcastle attack broke down, the visitors raced up field through Osman. The midfielder exchanged passes with Arteta before stroking a composed finish past Harper and into the bottom corner for a deserved equaliser.
But the Toffees were not content with just being all square, and proceeded to edge themselves in front. Leighton Baines swung a dangerous free-kick right through the heart of the penalty area and Phil Jagielka stole in at the far post to crash home a close-range finish.
As if falling behind wasn't bad enough, Newcastle suffered a further blow when left-back Jose Enrique hobbled off with the clock ticking down towards half-time. But rather than a defender being introduced into the fray, manager Alan Pardew went with the bold option of bringing on Shola Ameobi - making his first appearance since fracturing his cheekbone at Fulham last month.
Some late Magpies pressure saw Steven Taylor have a low shot blocked, while Williamson could only direct Gutierrez's strike inches wide of the far post, as they tried to even things up before half-time.
Ameobi made an impact within minutes of the restart. Receiving the ball wide on the left he turned Jagielka inside out before Howard had to turn his near-post strike behind for a corner. And then from the resulting flag kick, the front man saw a low shot held by the Everton stopper.
At the other end, Harper twice kept out Jermaine Beckford from good positions, while ex-Magpie Saha also headed well over unmarked in the middle of the area.
Newcastle pressed and pressed in search of an equaliser but too often the final ball was lacking in quality. When that moment finally arrived in the 70th minute, and captain Kevin Nolan was ready to pull the trigger from eight yards, a superb last-gasp block from Baines took the sting off the strike and made it easy for Howard.
Saha somehow failed to connect with Arteta's cross from only a couple of yards as Everton tried to put the result beyond any doubt, and the hosts thought they had made them pay with Best heading in on 78 minutes. But referee Howard Webb had spotted a push by the striker and the goal was ruled out.
Peter Lovenkrands fluffed his lines from an acrobatic effort, after great work by Gutierrez on the by-line. while the Magpies failed to scramble home from close range when Best's free-kick was only partially cut out.
Still Everton could have extended their advantage even further as the game opened up, and substitute Seamus Coleman was twice thrwarted by Harper. But Newcastle were unable to salvage anything from this one.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Steve Harper; Steven Taylor (Shane Ferguson 65), Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique (Shola Ameobi 43); Danny Simpson, Kevin Nolan (c), Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best (Shefki Kuqi 85), Peter Lovenkrands
Everton (4-4-2): Tim Howard; Tony Hibbert, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Leighton Baines; Leon Osman, Phil Neville (c) (John Heitinga 52), Jack Rodwell, Mikel Arteta; Jermaine Beckford (Victor Anichebe 69), Louis Saha (Seamus Coleman 85)
Subs not used: Jan Mucha, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Shane Duffy, Jose Baxter
Referee: Howard Webb
Attendance: 51,028 (2,750 Everton)