Newcastle United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1
- Paul Tierney
A second half header from Glenn Loovens condemned Newcastle United to defeat against Sheffield Wednesday on Monday night.
The Dutchman pounced from close range after the outstanding Karl Darlow had made a fine save to deny Tom Lees eight minutes after the break to give the Owls the victory in what was a fractious affair at St. James' Park.
In one of three changes from the team he sent out at Burton before Christmas, Rafa Benitez brought Jack Colback back into his side in place of the suspended Jonjo Shelvey as United looked to consolidate their position at the top of the Sky Bet Championship.
But Wednesday, who began the evening in sixth place in the table, started with an attack-minded 11, with Fernando Forestieri partnering former Sunderland frontman Steven Fletcher in attack.
And Carlos Carvalhal's men began with urgency. A Ross Wallace delivery was nodded away just before Forestieri could head it goalwards, and Daniel Pudil saw his shot deflected behind for a corner inside the opening ten minutes.
Newcastle, though, retained a big threat, and almost took the lead through leading goalscorer Dwight Gayle. Some fine work from Mo Diame on the edge of the area gave the former Crystal Palace man a sight of goal, but Keiren Westwood got a hand to it to divert it onto the crossbar.
Ciaran Clark then had two glimpses of goal, heading a pair of Matt Ritchie corners over and wide before Darlow was called into action for the first time at the other end, brilliantly tipping Fletcher's powerful shot over the bar.
The resulting corner saw the Magpies battling to clear their lines as Darlow made another crucial intervention, and after latching on to Sam Hutchinson's superb crossfield ball, Liam Palmer blazed over as the former Nottingham Forest stopper narrowed the angle.
After a fragmented end to the first period - in which Wednesday's robust approach frustrated the hosts at times - Carvalhal's side were denied once more by Darlow, who produced another magnificent save to deny Fletcher. Barry Bannan's low cross presented the Scot with the chance, but Darlow got himself in the way and United cleared the danger.
But just minutes later, Benitez's side fell behind. After Darlow had pulled off another outstanding save to keep Lees' header from Bannan's corner out, Forestieri nodded the ball back into the path of defender Loovens, whose close-range header found the back of the net.
Isaac Hayden blasted over from distance and Yoan Gouffran glanced the returning Jack Colback's cross just wide of the post as United sought a leveller, while Christian Atsu and then Ayoze Perez were introduced from the bench.
And Atsu almost equalised, cutting in from the right onto his favoured left foot, but Westwood palmed his venomous strike over the crossbar.
Benitez's final roll of the dice saw him bring on Aleksandar Mitrovic with just over ten minutes remaining, and the Serbian went close to scoring with his first touch.
But Westwood held on to his header from Ritchie's outswinging corner, and Wednesday held on despite some late pressure to claim the points.