St. James' Park
Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Journalist
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United 3 (Ba 27, 30, 54)
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Hoilett 37)
Demba Ba netted a hat-trick as Newcastle extended their unbeaten start to the season to eight games with a 3-1 win over Blackburn at St. James' Park.
The Senegalese striker scored twice in the space of three minutes before the break - a neat turn and finish, followed by a close-range header - before sealing his treble in the second half as he nodded over Paul Robinson.
Junior Hoilett had briefly put Rovers back in the contest in between, but it was Ba's first goals for United since his summer switch from West Ham that earned the hosts a deserved victory.
Leon Best and Gabriel Obertan could have both added to United's tally as they dominated for large spells, and there was also the welcome sight of a return to Premier League action for Hatem Ben Arfa from the substitutes' bench.
United signalled their attacking intent by forcing three early corners, while Ryan Taylor also sent a free-kick into the wall, but it was Ba who had their best chance with just six minutes on the clock.
Receiving the ball just inside the Blackburn half, the big striker was given time and space and he strode forward before firing a 25-yard drive narrowly over the bar.
Next to try his luck was Best in the 12th minute. As Danny Simpson and Obertan combined down the right, the Magpies' leading scorer held held his position on the edge of the box. He was found unmarked from Obertan's cut-back, but blazed well over when he perhaps should have done much better.
It was almost one-way traffic, and Jonas Gutierrez nodded Simpson's right-wing delivery wide, but the breakthrough finally came on 27 minutes from Ba - his first goal in the black and white stripes.
A superb ball from back to front by captain Fabricio Coloccini released Best into space out on the left, and he wasted no time in drilling a low ball into the feet of Ba inside the box.
Ten yards out, with his back to goal, the former West Ham man still had plenty to do, but he controlled well to hold off the challenge of Scott Dann, before turning and unleashing a rocket past the despairing dive of Robinson.
Not content with one, Ba doubled his - and Newcastle's - tally just three minutes later to give the hosts some breathing space. As Simpson lobbed a ball into the box, Steven Taylor headed it back across the face of goal, and a slight touch from Blackburn's Steven N'Zonzi flicked it into the path of Ba, who was left to simply nod home.
Only the intervention of Scott Dann's boot prevented a low Gutierrez effort from sneaking in the bottom corner on 36 minutes, as United looked to put the game out of sight before half-time, but Blackburn instead went straight down the other end and halved the deficit.
Hoilett was found on the edge of the box by Martin Olsson's left-wing cross, and the midfielder was gifted enough time to take a touch and slam a shot into the roof of the net with Tim Krul helpless.
With half-time approaching, the Magpies should have grabbed their third of the afternoon through Best, but the striker was unusually off target with his header, having risen above the Rovers rearguard to meet Ryan Taylor's in-swinging cross.
And Gabriel Obertan was inches away from the same outcome on the stroke of half-time, as the home side broke at pace, but his strike was always rising.
An outstanding defensive header from Ryan Taylor prevented Blackburn from levelling things up within seven minutes of the restart. Olsson's ball in from the left looked to have found Hoilett at the far post, but Taylor did brilliantly to flick the ball away in the nick of time and avert the danger.
But Newcastle increased their lead in the 54th minute as Ba bagged his hat-trick. Cheik Tiote won possession in the middle of the park before looking up and sending a deep flighted ball into the box.
Ba climbed above Gael Givet at the far post and looped a header goalwards, with Rovers keeper Robinson unable to keep it out under pressure from Best.
Newcastle weren't done there however, and Ryan Taylor bent a trademark free-kick not too far away, before Obertan fired just wide from distance after a rapid run which took him past a handful of challenges.
Blackburn's cause wasn't helped in the 70th minute when Olsson was given his marching orders for a second yellow card. Already booked earlier in the afternoon, Olsson upended Best on the halfway line, giving referee Martin Atkinson no choice but to reach for his cards once more.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew made his first change of the afternoon on 73 minutes, with standing ovations for both the player leaving the pitch and the one coming on, as hat-trick hero Ba was replaced by Ben Arfa.
And the substitute almost made an immediate impact, starting a move which involved Gutierrez, before slipping a ball across the face of goal which Best was inches away from connecting with.
Best twice sent left-footed efforts over the top - first after a neat one-two with Obertan, and then having raced onto a Yohan Cabaye through ball which split the Rovers defence - while Ben Arfa also fashioned space for himself before curling wide.
But they had to settle for three in the end, the same as the number of points Newcastle earned from an excellent all-round display.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Steven Taylor, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Ryan Taylor; Gabriel Obertan, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez (Sylvain Marveaux 84); Leon Best, Demba Ba (Hatem Ben Arfa 73)
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Paul Robinson; Michel Salgado, Christopher Samba (c), Scott Dann (Ruben Rochina 64), Gael Givet; Junior Hoilett, Steven N'zonzi, Jason Lowe, Martin Olsson; Mauro Formica (Jason Roberts 64), Yakubu (Vince Grella 79)
Subs: Mark Bunn, Grant Hanley, Radosav Petrovic, Simon Vukcevic
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Attendance: 46,236 (1,174 Blackburn)