AYOZE Perez was Newcastle’s match-winner for the second time in a week as Newcastle edged past Liverpool to claim a fourth successive victory.
The former Tenerife frontman, who scored the decisive goal at Tottenham last Sunday, stabbed home from close range with 13 minutes remaining to seal a 1-0 victory, the Magpies’ third on the trot in the league, a feat they had not achieved since November last year.
It was no more than they deserved after another committed display in front of a largely delighted crowd of 52,166, and they might have won more comfortably had goalkeeper Simon Mignolet not pulled off a fine one-on-one save from substitute Remy Cabella four minutes later.
While manager Alan Pardew was able to celebrate once again, Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers was left to reflect upon another toothless display with a daunting Champions League trip to Real Madrid to come next Tuesday evening.
Liverpool, who won 6-0 at St James’ Park in April 2013, started brightly, retaining possession with ease and pinning the home side back - but without threatening to break the black and white line.
That proved to be a theme during the opening 45 minutes as lone striker Mario Balotelli and wide-man Raheem Sterling were too often isolated to leave Magpies keeper Tim Krul untroubled.
But as Newcastle responded with holding midfielder Mehdi Abeid to the fore, it was opposite number Mignolet whose goal came under the greater threat, although without the Belgium international finding himself tested unduly.
Papiss Cisse saw a fourth-minute shot deflected wide by defender Martin Skrtel and Moussa Sissoko had appeals for a penalty waved away five minutes later after he had gone to ground under Joe Allen’s challenge.
Even the loss of in-form winger Gabriel Obertan with what looked like a torn thigh muscle failed to halt Newcastle’s momentum, with teenager Rolando Aarons taking up his mantle.
Nevertheless,. clear-cut chances were few and far between until the final few minutes of the half when Mignolet needed the help of defender Glen Johnson to head Cisse’s 37th-minute shot off the line.
However, Krul was just as relieved three minutes later when Skrtel powered a free header wide from Steven Gerrard’s corner.
Cisse might have caused problems for Mignolet in injury time after Skrtel had been booked for a cynical trip on Sissoko two yards outside the penalty area, but the Senegal international lifted his effort high over.
Pardew made a change at the break when Perez replaced Cisse, who has been struggling with a knee problem, but it was the visitors who went close five minutes after the restart when Balotelli forced a solid save from Krul with a dipping, swerving free-kick.
The Holland international had to pluck another effort from the Italian out of the air five minutes later, and he produced a stunning one-handed save to repel Philippe Coutinho’s 58th-minute header, although the offside flag was up.
Reds’ skipper Steven Gerrard was playing significantly higher up the pitch and was far more effective as a result, although full-back Paul Dummett gave the visitors something to think about when he strode forward on the hour and blasted a left-foot drive just over.
The home side picked up the pace and drove Liverpool back towards their own goal as the half wore on, but with Gerrard pulling the strings, Liverpool were a different proposition and substitute Fabio Borini fired wide from distance after running on to Sterling’s 70th-minute lay-off.
But the breakthrough finally arrived with 17 minutes remaining when Sissoko and Dummett played a one-two for the Frenchman to cross towards Cabella.
Full-back Alberto Moreno managed to cut the ball out, but hesitated - allowing Perez to step in and score from close range.
It should have been 2-0 four minutes later when Cabella and Perez broke with the Spaniard sending the Frenchman in against Mignolet, who stuck out his right boot.