Xherdan Shaqiri goal lifts Stoke to victory over troubled Newcastle
Stoke forward Xherdan Shaqiri's winner nine minutes from time consigned Newcastle to a sixth straight away loss in the Barclays Premier League and kept them mired in the relegation zone.
The Magpies, back in action after 18 days off, arrived at the Britannia Stadium having not picked up a point on the road since a December 13 win at Tottenham, while they also had been eliminated from the FA Cup with a loss at Watford in January.
A point would have lifted them out of the bottom three, and they were on course to ensure a share of the spoils at the Britannia Stadium before Shaqiri popped up with a moment of magic in the Potters' 1-0 win.
The Swiss international collected substitute Mame Diouf's lay off and smashed a left-footed attempt beyond Rob Elliot in the Magpies goal.
It was enough to earn Mark Hughes' side a third win on the spin, yet they needed a fantastic one-handed save from Jack Butland to repel Seydou Doumbia in stoppage time and make sure of the points.
Newcastle had spent their hiatus at a warm-weather camp in La Manga, although conditions there will not have prepared them for a typically blustery evening in this corner of Staffordshire.
Swirling crosses would not have been a concern for Elliot out in Spain but he had to keep an eye on Erik Pieters' delivery as it got caught up in the wind and threatened to go straight over his head.
The Potters were carrying a threat from wide areas in the first period and Shaqiri was constantly looking to cut back on to his left foot, drawing Elliot into one save and almost catching him out with another cross that went past the far post.
Hughes was forced into a defensive reshuffle midway through the opening half when Phil Bardsley was withdrawn for Marc Muniesa, which meant Geoff Cameron reverted to full-back.
And it was from that position that he raced across to stop Moussa Sissoko from pulling the trigger just before the break on one of the Magpies' rare forays into Stoke's box.
Shaqiri almost collected Marko Arnautovic's cross and Ibrahim Afellay volleyed over at the start of the second 45 to suggest Stoke would take charge, but they failed to build on that and Hughes introduced strike duo Peter Crouch and Diouf with 21 minutes remaining to try and force the issue.
The pair's presence almost produced a goal as Shaqiri restarted the game with a corner Elliot flapped at and was fortunate to see drop to team-mate Sissoko.
Eventually Shaqiri did produce the game's defining moment, though, just as it appeared the contest was trudging towards a stalemate.
The forward drifted off the right wing and received a pass from Diouf, steadying himself before firing his third Stoke goal beyond a static Elliot.
Newcastle almost mustered an unlikely equaliser when Jonjo Shelvey's cross was met by Doumbia, with Butland springing away to his left to claw the ball out with his left hand.
And Shaqiri's goal was almost upstaged by Arnautovic with the last kick of the game, the Austrian's fine volley clattering against the crossbar jut before the final whistle sounded.
TWEET OF THE MATCH:
"Nooooo, Newcastle stop doing this!!!!!! Think the time has come to accept we are going down" - Lynsey Hipgrave ( @lynseyhipgrave1)
Jack Butland: 8
Phil Bardsley: 6
Geoff Cameron: 7
Philipp Wollscheid: 6
Erik Pieters: 7
Glenn Whelan: 6
Giannelli Imbula: 6
Xherdan Shaqiri: 8
Ibrahim Afellay: 6
Marko Arnautovic: 7
Jonathan Walters: 5
Marc Muniesa: 7
Peter Crouch: 6
Mame Diouf: 7
Rob Elliot: 6
Daryl Janmaat: 6
Steven Taylor: 5
Jamaal Lascelles: 6
Paul Dummett: 5
Jack Colback: 6
Jonjo Shelvey: 6
Moussa Sissoko: 6
Georginio Wijnaldum: 6
Yoan Gouffran: 6
Aleksandar Mitrovic: 5
Emmanuel Riviere: 6
Seydou Doumbia: 6
Ayoze Perez: 6
STAR MAN: Xherdan Shaqiri. For large portions of this game, very little happened. But, when something lively did occur, it usually involved the Swiss. A constant menace cutting inside from the right, his third goal for the Potters nine minutes from time proved the difference in difficult conditions at the Britannia Stadium.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Newcastle would have claimed a point they did not deserve in stoppage time were it not for Jack Butland's brilliance. The goalkeeper, who is surely pushing Joe Hart to be England's number one this summer, reacted smartly to deny Seydou Doumbia after the substitute had collected Jonjo Shelvey's cross.
MOAN OF THE MATCH: For a side who had enjoyed 18 days off, Newcastle offered very little going forward.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT: Steve McClaren may have made changes to his starting line-up but while Mark Hughes used his bench to impact the game in a positive manner, the ex-England boss seemed content to hold out for a point. Hughes' decision to bring on Peter Crouch and Mame Diouf paid off, with the latter providing the assist for Shaqiri's goal.
Chelsea v Stoke (Barclays Premier League, Saturday March 5)
Newcastle v Bournemouth (Barclays Premier League, Saturday March 5)