SO, rumours of Alan Pardew’s demise at Newcastle United appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
No one can second-guess the club’s owner, Mike Ashley.
But the feeling before Saturday’s game was that a loss at the Cardiff City Stadium could have spelt the end for Pardew.
During his tenure at St James’s Park, Graeme Souness said a manager was only ever two or three defeats away from a crisis.
And Pardew found himself, and the club, engulfed in a crisis of sorts in the build-up to the team’s visit to South Wales.
Newcastle’s first-half performance the 3-2 defeat to Everton a week ago had been unacceptable. Few of the 1,000 or so fans at Goodison Park will have seen a worse 45 minutes from a team in black and white.
And to some fans, the situation was black and white after that result.
Pardew, they argued, simply had to go. Period. End of story.
The antipathy felt towards the 52-year-old by many supporters dates back to last season’s relegation battle, and his specifically tactics and team seleection.
Pardew’s teamsheet for the Cardiff game did little to lift the mood as fans made their way to the stadium, many more in hope than expectation.
Ruud Gullit’s decision to leave Alan Shearer out of his starting XI for a Tyne-Wear derby cost him his job.
Would Pardew’s call to start Hatem Ben Arfa on the bench be as costly? Had the result not gone his way, the decision would undoubtedly have come back to haunt him.
But Ben Arfa’s omission wasn’t a surprise, and that’s not just because news leaked out on the morning of the game. The forward had been an anonymous figure in the Everton and Hull City defeats, games where Newcastle were found wanting defensively.
Yet without him, United wouldn’t have beaten Fulham at home. And they wouldn’t have won at Aston Villa.
Ben Arfa’s unquestionably a match winner, and Newcastle need those right now.
The decision to leave out Vurnon Anita was arguably the more contenious call given the midfielder’s performances this season. Anita, quietly effective sat in front of the back four, has found a level of consistency this season.
Anita’s intelligent use of the ball has been an asset to Newcastle.
However, the distribution of Cheik Tiote hasn’t been so good.
But the team put out by Pardew clicked against Cardiff. Crucially, Tiote looked more like the player who arrived from Holland three years ago and single-handedly grabbed games by the scruff of the neck.
Malky Mackay’s side gave United an early scare. A lack of communication between goalkeeper Tim Krul and captain Fabricio Coloccini allowed in Fraizer Campbell.
The former Sunderland striker couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
And the rest of the half was one-way traffic. Chance after chance came Newcastle’s way before Loic Remy got the breakthrough in the 30th minute.
United again had a fluency going forward, and in Remy, they have a player at the very top of his game.
The 26-year-old took the ball on the left wing and cut inside. Somehow, the forward squeezed the ball between goalkeeper Marshall - who had earlier denied him and Sissoko with two superb saves - and his post with a right-footed shot from 25 yards.
Eight minutes later Remy was there with a measured shot after a shot from Papiss Demba Cisse was parried to him.
Midfielder Yohan Cabaye, such a force alongside Tiote, struck the post before the break.
Inevitably, Cardiff fought back in the second half, but they found Newcastle resolute opponents.
Mike Williamson, in for Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, tackled, intercepted and headed all afternoon, and it was unfortunate that the defender gave the ball away on the halfway line for the home side’s goal, scored by Peter Odemwingie in the 58th minute.
Remy - who had been troubled by an ankle problem before the game - left the field in the 71st minute.
And United had enough about them to see the game out. They also had chances on the break for a third goal as Cardiff threw men forward in search of an equaliser.
Malky could have few complaints after the final whistle. They were beaten by the better team.
In on-loan Remy, Newcastle have another match-winner.
His two strikes took his goal tally for the season to five, and keeping him at St James’s Park beyond this season will prove more difficult with every goal he scores.
In the meantime, his performances can lift the club up the table – and keep Pardew in a job.