Ba claims hat-trick in Stoke defeat
Newcastle striker Demba Ba gave Stoke a taste of what they missed out on with a hat-trick as the Magpies won 3-1 to move within a point of second-placed Manchester United.
The Senegal international would have been a Potters player in January as he had already agreed a move from Hoffenheim before the club pulled the plug on the move after he failed their medical.
Ba struck twice in the first half to give his side a comfortable lead and, although Jonathan Walters pulled one back with from the spot with 15 minutes remaining, Newcastle restored their two-goal cushion with a penalty of their own.
When it came to defending set-pieces striker Leon Best was employed to good effect at the back to combat their opponents' aerial power while Gabriel Obertan occupied a high, wide position to ensure there was always an attacking outlet.
That provided the platform for Ba to do what he does best at the other end and Newcastle's 12th-minute opener would not have looked out of place in the Stoke coaching manual.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul's kick was headed on by Best to Obertan, who found space behind left-back Marc Wilson. The Frenchman's inviting cross into the six-yard area picked out Ba who expertly twisted his body to head the ball back inside the near post.
The Magpies doubled their lead five minutes before the interval when Matthew Upson could only help Fabricio Coloccini's lofted pass on to Best on the right of the penalty area and he crossed low for Ba to tap in.
With still no sign of a breakthrough, Kenwyne Jones replaced Matthew Etherington for the last quarter and within five minutes Stoke pulled one back.
Upson's goalbound effort was headed away by Coloccini but Ba fouled Peter Crouch in the ensuing scramble and Walters fired home the penalty.
But barely had the recovery begun then it was ended as referee Mike Dean penalised Robert Huth for a push on Best and Ba drilled home from the spot.