NEWCASTLE United have heaped the pressure on relegation-favourites Sunderland ahead of Sunday’s Tyne-Wear derby.
That’s the verdict of manager Alan Pardew after his side beat Fulham 1-0 thanks to a dramatic late goal from Papiss Demba Cisse.
The result lifted United into 13th place and five points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
Sunderland, meanwhile, are 17th are level with third-from-bottom Wigan Athletic, who have a game in hand over Paolo Di Canio’s side, beaten 2-1 at Stamford Bridge by Chelsea.
Bookmakers slashed the odds on Newcastle’s fierce rivals getting relegated after the weekend’s games.
And Pardew was just relieved that his team found a way to win – and eased their relegation worries ahead of Thursday night’s Europa League quarter-final against Benfica.
“There are a lot of teams around us who will be very disappointed with the result, which is good,” Pardew told SportMail.
“That’s good for us. I said that before we went out – we just needed to find a way.”
The relief was evident on and off the pitch after Cisse scored, with the striker jumping into the Gallowgate End and Pardew embracing fans behind the dugout.
Cisse had missed a number of chances – and forced a save from Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer – before he redirected Yohan Cabaye’s injury-time shot into the net.
And the Pardew likened the feeling in the moments after Cisse’s goal to winning a cup final.
“It was a tense day,” added Pardew. “It was a tense day for us all.
“We all knew how important it was that we got three points. It didn’t really matter how they came.”
“They came in the last minute, which led to the celebrations that followed. It was almost like winning the cup final.
“I didn’t give up hope. We had a great period.
“Sometimes you know, when teams are hitting you on the break, and you haven’t got any ideas.
“But no, I felt we were in a good situation. We were pressing, and the crowd got involved.
“We just needed a half chance.
“Papiss made a chance out of nothing, really.”