St. James' Park
Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall, at St. James' Park
Newcastle 4 (Barton 69pen, 84pen; Best 75; Tiote 88)
Arsenal 4 (Walcott 1; Djourou 3; Van Persie 10, 26)
A stunning second half comeback saw Newcastle recover from four down at half-time to draw 4-4 against Arsenal at St. James' Park.
A disastrous first half seemingly left the Magpies staring down the barrel of defeat as a Robin Van Persie brace and goals from Theo Walcott and Johan Djourou put the visitors completely in control.
But Arsenal had Abou Diaby sent off early in the second half for a shove on Joey Barton and that sparked Alan Pardew's side into life.
Two Barton penalties - sandwiched either side of a Leon Best finish - gave the hosts belief, and then Cheick Tiote thundered home a 30-yard volley with time running out to send around 50,000 Geordies into raptures.
Arsenal got off to a dream start in just 43 seconds. Joey Barton's sliding tackle in the middle of the park saw the ball run into the path of Theo Walcott, who raced in behind Fabricio Coloccini and slipped the ball past Steve Harper.
And if that was good then it got even better in the third minute as Newcastle were left facing a mountain to climb so early on. Andrei Arshavin swung in a free-kick from the left flank and Johan Djourou nipped in ahead of Mike Williamson to send a free header into the top corner.
Shell-shocked, the Magpies came back at Arsenal with Barton sending a long-range effort over the bar and Peter Lovenkrands inches away from latching on to a through ball which had beaten the offside trap.
But a bad afternoon just got worse in the 10th minute when the Gunners made it 3-0. Abou Diaby fed Walcott down the right and his low centre was comfortably swept home by Robin Van Persie.
Leon Best flicked a header wide, while captain Kevin Nolan also nodded off target as the hosts desperately tried to gain a foothold back in the match, but Arsenal looked capable of scoring at will and Diaby shanked a half-volley just the wrong side of the upright, before Harper was forced to save at his near post to deny Cesc Fabregas.
And number four duly arrived on 26 minutes, and again stemmed from a flowing Arsenal move down the right. Diaby played in full-back Bacary Sagna, whose cross was inch-perfect for Van Persie to steal in unmarked and head home from close range.
Van Persie came close to completing a first half hat-trick when he was found by a pass over the top and lifted his shot over the on-rushing body of Harper, only to put it off target - surprising given Arsenal's clinical forward play.
Newcastle were given the faintest glimmer of hope five minutes after the restart when the Gunners were reduced to 10 men. Diaby and Barton flew into a challenge just inside the Arsenal half and the pair then tangled, with Diaby pushing his opponent in the back of the head, leaving Barton on the deck.
A shove into the back of Nolan as well for good measure left referee Phil Dowd with no option but to issue a straight red card to the midfielder.
The defender cut inside Laurent Koscielny and fired goalwards, but saw his effort parried away by Wojciech Szczesny. And the Arsenal keeper had to be alert seconds later to hold on to Nolan's low strike from distance.
The hosts reduced the deficit on 69 minutes through Barton's fourth goal of the season. As the midfielder drilled a low corner in towards Best, he was bundled over by Koscielny and Mr Dowd pointed straight to the spot. Barton stepped up to confidently roll the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Szczesny the wrong way.
It was almost constant Newcastle pressure by this point and Williamson's thumping downward header forced Szczesny into a smart save, before Best had the ball in the back of the net, only to see his turn and shot ruled out by the linesman's flag.
But the big front man was not to be denied again and Best made it 4-2 in the 75th minute, reacting quickest to a loose ball in the area and thumping a shot home from close range.
Substitute Nile Ranger brought the best out of Szczesny with an angled effort, and Best then headed over unmarked from the resulting corner as the Magpies dominated.
The comeback became a real possibility with just six minutes of the match remaining, thanks to another spot kick. Koscielny was again the guilty culprit, accused of fouling Williamson as the pair challenged for a long ball at the far post.
And Barton kept his cool to drill the penalty straight down the middle and just past the legs of the diving Szczesny.
Amazingly, the turnaround was completed in the 88th minute - and through one of the goals of the season. Cheick Tiote smashed home his first in the black and white striped shirt, thumping a 30-yard volley past the helpless Szczesny as Arsenal headed clear a corner.
Kevin Nolan almost won it, sending a strike just wide of the upright with Szczesny beaten, but the Geordies had to settle for a draw which, 45 minutes earlier, looked impossible to salvage.
Newcastle (4-4-2): Steve Harper; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini, Jose Enrique; Joey Barton, Kevin Nolan (c), Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best (Danny Guthrie 90), Peter Lovenkrands (Nile Ranger 73)
Subs not used: Tim Krul, James Perch, Sol Campbell, Michael Richardson, Shane Ferguson
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Wojciech Szczesny; Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny, Johan Djourou (Sebastien Squillaci 48), Gael Clichy; Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere; Theo Walcott (Emmanuel Eboue 79), Cesc Fabregas (c), Andrei Arshavin (Tomas Rosicky 69); Robin Van Persie
Subs not used: Manuel Almunia, Kieran Gibbs, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner
Referee: Phil Dowd