Perez brace and a Ritchie strike see Town go down at Championship leaders
Newcastle showed why they are Championship favourites with a brace from Ayoze Perez and a sublime finish from Matt Ritchie giving them the points at St James’ Park.
Leon Best rattled the bar for Town in the first-half but Blues were a goal down by then and Rafa Benitez’s side - with England international Jonjo Shelvey running the game in midfield - struck twice in the final 20 minutes to cement their place at the top of the table.
Town made three changes to the side that beat Burton in midweek, Cole Skuse out with a toe injury, Jonathan Douglas returning to the side with Conor Grant and Grant Ward in for Teddy Bishop and Kevin Bru.
Blues hadn’t touched the ball before the home side were ahead. After what must have been 30 passes around the pitch, Perez arrived at the back post to volley home from Paul Dummett’s cross.
Dwight Gayle fired over from close range following another flowing move as the Magpies threatened an immediate second but Blues responded with Best thundering a left foot effort against the bar after a corner hadn’t been cleared.
Karl Darlow was fortunate to see his clearance go straight to a Newcastle team-mate on the edge of his box, the ‘keeper then off his line to smother the danger from Freddie Sears’ cross.
Ritchie had an effort deflected wide, then Yoan Gouffran couldn’t keep his shot down from 15 yards.
Gouffran skimmed a delivery across goal, Ritchie saw another left foot effort drift wide courtesy of a Town boot then Jamaal Lascelles sent a header over the bar.
Adam Webster showed his ability to run from deep with a surge from his own area before firing just wide as Blues looked for a way back into the game, Best failing to get proper contact on a free-kick.
Newcastle were incensed on 35 minutes when Shelvey found Gayle inside the box, he went down under challenge from Bart Bialkowski but referee James Adcock waved away appeals for a penalty.
Ritchie saw a left foot drive go wide after Shelvey had been the architect of another crisp move, Luke Chambers heading over from a corner at the other end to bring an entertaining first-half to an end with Town still in the game after that shock start.
Blues made two changes at the break, with Best - who looked to have dislocated a finger just before half-time - replaced by David McGoldrick and Josh Emmanuel on for Jonas Knudsen.
Darlow plucked Grant Ward’s cross out of the air as Town threatened down the right, Bialkowski doing the same at the other end from Perez’s delivery.
Ritchie’s volley was a yard wide, McGoldrick showing a nice touch to get away from his marker and test Darlow from distance, Bialkowski then showing a strong hand to beat out Gouffran’s blockbuster.
Newcastle wrapped the game up on 73 minutes, Ritchie providing the cross with his right foot and Perez buried his shot from 15 yards.
Douglas’ header was comfortably saved by Darlow before Newcastle made it three on 79 minutes, Ritchie finding the bottom corner with a terrific finish with the outside of his left foot.
Jonny Williams was handed the last 10 minutes as he continued his comeback from an ankle ligament injury as Newcastle saw out their game to stay in pole position for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Newcastle: Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Colback, Lascelles, Gayle (Mitrovic 79), Ritchie, Shelvey (Hayden 80), Perez, Gouffran (Atsu 74), Yedlin. Subs not used: Sels, Anita, Mbemba, Diame. Booked: Colback, Dunnett.
Town: Bialkowski, Chambers, Webster, Berra, Knudsen (Emmanuel 46), Douglas, Grant, Ward, Lawrence, Sears (Williams 80), Best (McGoldrick 46). Subs not used: Gerken, Digby, Bishop, Bru. Booked: Knudsen.