Newcastle’s Andros Townsend scored a stunner of a free-kick Saturday as Newcastle United edged Crystal Palace 1-0 and escaped the relegation zone at the expense of northeast rivals Sunderland.
Townsend netted with a sensational shot in the 58th minute and with Karl Darlow saving a penalty from ex-Newcastle player Yohan Cabaye, Rafael Benitez’s team claimed a potentially vital win.
Jermain Defoe scored a stoppage-time penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw at Stoke City for Sunderland and although Sam Allardyce’s side were left a point behind Newcastle in the bottom three, they retain a game in hand.
Both teams could yet end up in the relegation places at the end of the day, however, if Norwich City can contrive to win at Arsenal in the late kick-off.
A pivotal day at St James’ Park began with a minute’s applause to mark the verdicts of the new inquests into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which found police responsible for the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans.
Newcastle’s fans broke into a spontaneous rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, the Liverpool club anthem, but singing quickly gave way to nail-biting as the home side struggled to make a breakthrough.
Townsend eventually made the breakthrough, the one-time England winger sending a free-kick from wide on the right whistling into the top-left corner.
Twelve minutes later, Cabaye had a chance to equalise, but the France international, who angered Newcastle fans by leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2014, saw his penalty brilliantly turned away by Darlow.
Sunderland could not follow Newcastle’s lead, but Defoe’s unerring 94th-minute penalty prevented them from suffering a damaging defeat.
Stoke went ahead in the 50th minute through Marko Arnautovic, who was then forced off by injury, and Defoe earned his side a precious point by dispatching a spot-kick awarded for a foul on him by Geoff Cameron.
Elsewhere, West Ham United captain Mark Noble scored twice for the second game in succession as his side won 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion to replace Manchester United in fifth place.
Dimitri Payet crossed for Cheikhou Kouyate to head West Ham in front in the 34th minute and Kouyate set up Noble for his first goal before Andy Carroll crossed for the Englishman to volley in his second.
Leighton Baines scored the winner as Everton prevailed 2-1 at home to Bournemouth, after Tom Cleverley’s seventh-minute opener for the hosts had been swiftly cancelled out by Marc Pugh’s deflected strike.
But it remained an uncomfortable afternoon for Everton manager Roberto Martinez, with protesting supporters paying for a plane trailing the banner “TIME TO GO ROBERTO” to fly over Goodison Park during the game.
Meanwhile, skipper Troy Deeney scored a last-gasp brace as Watford twice came from behind to inflict a 3-2 defeat on already-relegated Aston Villa.
Villa led twice, through Ciaran Clark and Jordan Ayew, but Almen Abdi cancelled out Clark’s opener and after the hosts had lost Aly Cissokho to a red card for a last-man foul on Ikechi Anya, Deeney turned the game on its head.
Leaders Leicester City can become England’s first new top-flight title-winners since Nottingham Forest in 1978 if they win at Manchester United on Sunday.
Should they fail to win, they will still be crowned champions on Monday if second-place Tottenham Hotspur, who are seven points off the pace, cannot better their result when they visit Chelsea.