Barclays Premier League
By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Reebok Stadium
Bolton Wanderers 0
Newcastle United 2 (Ben Arfa 69, Ba 71)
Two goals in as many second half minutes handed Newcastle United the perfect late Christmas present at Bolton on Boxing Day - three Premier League points.
It was the Magpies' first win in seven attempts, and came courtesy of efforts from substitute Hatem Ben Arfa and leading scorer Demba Ba.
Both sides had failed to make any real impression in the final third during an uninspiring contest, but that was until Ben Arfa stepped off the bench midway through the second half, and broke the deadlock just eight minutes later.
Ba then added a close-range second almost immediately after - his 14th of the campaign - and United were home and dry, keeping their second clean sheet in three games in the process.
Following a quiet opening spell the game finally saw some action on 13 minutes. Yohan Cabaye - back in the United line-up after sevring a one-game ban - made space for himself in the middle of the park before being upended by Fabrice Muamba as he tried to get a shot away.
And up stepped Taylor to curl a free-kick around the wall, which was parried away by Bolton stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen with the visitors unable to profit on the rebound.
Jonas Gutierrez then had a shot blocked on the edge of the box, but chances at either end were few and far between.
In fact, it took 38 minutes for the first corner of the match, which Bolton failed to take advantage of. But as the ball got cleared, Cabaye was penalised for a foul and suddenly the Trotters were withing striking distance, 25 yards out.
Winger Martin Petrov took on free-kick responsibilities and thumped a low left-footed strike which looked destined for the bottom right-hand corner until a full-length Tim Krul managed to connect with a finger tip out and claw it to safety.
With half-time approaching, Leon Best tried his luck from distance but had his shot deflected behind, while seconds later the same player drifted in unmarked only to glance wide Taylor's corner.
Into the second half, and both sides came out looking to carry a much greater threat than they did before the break. Krul had to be quick off his line to punch clear Petrov's left-wing delivery under pressure, before David Ngog sent a cross-cum-shot right across the face of goal.
And at the other end Gabriel Obertan turned ex-Watford full-back Paul Robinson inside out before firing straight at Jaaskelainen at his near post.
Just past the hour mark United boss Alan Pardew introduced Ben Arfa from the bench in place of Best, hoping the French international forward would give his side a different attacking dimension.
The next chance fell Bolton's way in the 66th minute - Petrov finding a yard of space before drilling a low effort just wide of the far post - but it wasn't long before Ben Arfa justified his manager's switch.
Gutierrez and Taylor combined down the left flank, and the latter's low cross picked out Ben Arfa lurking unmarked around the penalty spot. And the former Marseille man didn't need asking twice as he lashed home a first-time shot to send the travelling supporters behind the goal into raptures.
Having got one, Newcastle doubled their lead less than two minutes later as Demba Ba grabbed goal number 14 of a remarkable first season on Tyneside. Wanderers left-back Robinson lost possession to Cheick Tiote, and he fed Oberan who duly delivered a low cross into the heart of the danger zone.
Ba did the rest, getting ahead of his marker and sticking out a boot to flick home into the top corner.
The Magpies weren't done there and went in search of goal number three against their shell-shocked opponents. Taylor wasn't far away with a free-kick, while substitute Shola Ameobi used his first touch to meet a corner but head just off target.
Bolton applied pressure in the dying moments as they attempted to get back into the contest, but United held firm for all three points.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jussi Jaaskelainen; Dedryck Boyata, Zat Knight, Gary Cahill, Paul Robinson; Mark Davies, Fabrice Muamba (Chris Eagles 66), Nigel Reo-Coker, Martin Petrov; Ivan Klasnic (Kevin Davies 76), David Ngog (Tuncay 76)
Subs not used: Adam Bogdan, Sam Ricketts, David Wheater, Darren Pratley
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Ryan Taylor; Gabriel Obertan (Shola Ameobi 85), Yohan Cabaye (James Perch 88), Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez; Leon Best (Hatem Ben Arfa 61), Demba Ba
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Shane Ferguson, Haris Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)