FROM the sublime at Villa Park to the ridiculous at St James’s Park.
Things unravelled for Newcastle United on Saturday. Maybe not alarmingly, but certainly worryingly.
The mood on Tyneside was positive before kick off.
Misgivings over the club’s lack of summer signings had been put to one side, and manager Alan Pardew had been given the benefit of the doubt by some detractors ahead of Hull City’s visit after his team had shown some welcome attacking fluency in their previous 120 minutes of football.
And for 15 minutes, it was all going so well. Too well.
Newcastle, watched by owner Mike Ashley and director of football Joe Kinnear, led through an early goal from Loic Remy, making his first home start, and there was a breezy attacking intent about a dominant United on a bright September’s afternoon.
Moussa Sissoko played a deep cross from the right, and Papiss Demba Cisse knocked the ball into the ground. It bounced for Remy, who headed it past Allan McGregor.
The complexion of Steve Bruce – who had presided over Sunderland’s 5-1 defeat at St James’s Park – darkened on the touchline, maybe mindful of what had unfolded on the pitch on his last visit to St James’s Park as manager.
Unlike that afternoon, there was no capitulation from the visiting team.
Hull fought back and deservedly levelled.
Seconds after goalkeeper Tim Krul had stopped a header Danny Graham, on loan from Sunderland, the ball was in the net.
Sone Aluko – who Newcastle never got to grips with – found an unmarked Robbie Brady to the left of the goal, and he shot under Krul to equalise. Mathieu Debuchy – who had a forgettable afternoon – had gone to close down the Aluko, while Hatem Ben Arfa, neared to Brady, stood and watched.
Bruce’s side were in the ascendancy, and Remy’s second goal, scored in the 44th minute, was harsh on them.
A shot from Yohan Cabaye was blocked, and quick-thinking Remy placed the ball into the far corner of the net with his first instinctive touch.
But the forward’s two goals wouldn’t prove enough to win the game.
In fact, they wouldn’t prove enough for United to take anything from a fixture they were expected to win.
Aluko was fouled on the left early in the second half, and former Sunderland player Ahmed Elmohamady got the faintest of touches to Brady’s free kick. Krul, understandably, was furious with the team’s defending.
From that moment on, heads starting going down. Newcastle lacked ideas. The game was there to be won, but there only looked like being one winner.
There was a lack of leadership and leaders. Where was the grit and guile that was needed when the players’ backs were pressed where up against the wall?
A week early, United had reacted positively to Aston Villa’s equaliser.
Ben Arfa was everywhere that afternoon, but against Hull, he was nowhere. Too many players went missing.
The second-half performance brought back unwelcome memories of last season’s relegation battle.
Cabaye limped off the field with a groin injury, and the substitutes - Yoan Gouffran, Sylvain Marveaux and Cheik Tiote - never looked like having an influence on a game which was decided by Aluko’s 76th-minute strike.
George Boyd crossed from the left, and Aluko - who had intelligently lost his marker - met it deftly with his left foot, the forward literally passing it into the net.
It was a goal that deserved to win any game, and there was no doubting that Hull deserved their victory, though Remy almost claimed a point with a late chance.
The ball, taken by Remy on the turn, flew inches wide of the post, and the afternoon turned out to be a depressing and dispiriting one for Newcastle fans.
There have been too many of those at St James’s Park over the past 12 months.