Newcastle moved to within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League table with a last-gasp win at Nottingham Forest.
Eddie Howe’s side fell behind early on but kept their heads at a raucous City Ground on Friday night, condemning Steve Cooper’s men to their first home defeat since September.
The visitors should have broken the deadlock with just five minutes on the clock. Kieran Trippier managed to release Jacob Murphy down the right flank, running in behind Renan Lodi and drawing a the attention of Moussa Niakhate. His cross picked out Joe Willock just outside the six yard box, who fired over with the imposing figure of Ryan Yates breathing down his neck.
Newcastle went even closer minutes later. A cleverly-worked free-kick saw Trippier pass the ball under the wall to Alexander Isak, whose close-range shot was deflected onto the bar by Lodi and held by Keylor Navas.
At the other end, Forest’s first sight of goal came when Brennan Johnson shimmied in from the right wing and struck a swerving shot at Nick Pope, who did well to read the flight of the ball and hold onto the effort.
Despite being the inferior of the two sides early on, Forest took the lead midway through the first half. Sven Botman’s hospital pass back to Pope was intercepted by Emmanuel Dennis, who was forced wide with the ball but did well to chip the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and retreating Trippier on the line.
The Magpies rattled the woodwork for a second time in the first half when Sean Longstaff’s strike from 20 yards looped up off of the ankle of Felipe, bewildering Navas but gracefully ricocheting back off the bar and out to safety.
On the eve of the break, Newcastle found a leveller. Forest were caught napping with several players up the pitch, allowing Willock to sprint in behind and cross for Isak, who produced a wonderfully improvised finish with his shin, his effort bouncing in off the far post.
Howe’s men went close to taking the lead soon after the restart. A deep cross from Trippier was met by substitute Elliot Anderson, and his wicked volley was parried over by Navas.
The youngster wasn’t to be denied by Navas at his second attempt. Forest failed to clear their lines and Isak was able to dig out a cross towards the back post, with Anderson rising above Serge Aurier to head home. However, after a lengthy VAR check, Longstaff was judged to have been offside when Isak’s initial ball across ball was played in, and he became active when retrieving failed clearances from Felipe and Niakhate.
With the clock ticking down, Isak had a shot blocked off the line by Aurier as Newcastle went in desperate search of a late winner.
Such exuberance to go ahead for the first time saw the Magpies open themselves up a little at the back, with Johnson running at Botman and forcing a low save out of Pope on the break.
At the start of six minutes of stoppage time, Newcastle were awarded a penalty when Niakhate threw up an elbow trying to defend a cross, with the ball striking his arm. Isak stepped up and picked out the top corner to send the travelling Geordies into bedlam.
That proved to be the final piece of goal-mouth action, with Forest now nervously looking over their shoulders with many of their Premier League relegation rivals to take to the pitch later this weekend.
GK: Keylor Navas – 7/10 – Kept Forest in the game with a string of fine saves.
RB: Serge Aurier – 6/10 – Kept Saint-Maximin quiet but was given a tougher task by Anderson.
CB: Felipe – 4/10 – Quite messy with his aggressive style mannerisms.
CB: Moussa Niakhate – 1/10 – Eventually punished too much for his overly eager lunges and forays into midfield, giving away a daft penalty at the last.
LB: Renan Lodi – 4/10 – Continually caught out by Newcastle, who were happy to run into the space he so often vacated in behind Forest’s backline.
CM: Ryan Yates – 5/10 – Didn’t offer too much stability in midfield. Brought off with a shoulder injury.
CM: Jonjo Shelvey – 5/10 – Forest lacked creativity but were helped plenty by Shelvey’s impressive range of passing.
RM: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Looked a threat when he had the ball, but you can’t help but feel he should have been playing on the left to drift inside more naturally instead.
AM: Morgan Gibbs-White – 5/10 – Produced some nice flicks every now and then but failed to provide constant creativity.
LM: Emmanuel Dennis – 8/10 – Always lively wherever he popped up across the frontline. Rewarded for his endeavour with a goal.
CF: Andre Ayew – 4/10 – Looked every bit of a 33-year-old who hasn’t played too much at the top level in half a decade. Slow and cumbersome, often breaking down attacks by himself.
Remo Freuler (58′ for Yates) – 5/10
Sam Surridge (79′ for Ayew) – N/A
Neco Williams (79′ for Dennis) – N/A
Gustavo Scarra (90′ for Shelvey) – N/A
Steve Cooper – 5/10 – Forest were poor throughout yet found a way to stay in the game, which has been a theme throughout this season so it feels like it’s more than a fluke.
GK: Nick Pope – 4/10 – Was not as imposing as he should have been for someone who is one of the league’s tallest players.
RB: Kieran Trippier – 7/10 – Enjoyed galloping beyond former Atletico Madrid teammate Lodi. Usually the man to start Newcastle attacks.
CB: Fabian Schar – 6/10 – Wasn’t really troubled by a largely blunt Forest attack.
CB: Sven Botman – 3/10 – Completely ignored Dennis when trying to play the ball back to Pope, leading to the opening goal. Continually clumsy.
LB: Dan Burn – 5/10 – Twisted inside-out by Johnson, though fortunately for Burn not in dangerous areas.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes – 7/10 – The calmest head in an aggressive midfield battle.
CM: Sean Longstaff – 5/10 – Popped up in dangerous areas but without much threat (and if you were being harsh, proved a net negative due to Anderson’s disallowed goal).
CM: Joe Willock – 7/10 – Like Longstaff got himself into opportune parts of the pitch and found chinks in Forest’s armour.
RW: Jacob Murphy – 5/10 – Newcastle missed the directness that Miguel Almiron can bring. Murphy, instead, played on the fringes of the game and contributed very little.
CF: Alexander Isak – 9/10 – An all-action performance. Scored a brilliant goal before being cruelly denied an assist of similar quality, but ultimately having the last laugh from 12 yards.
LW: Allan Saint-Maximin – 5/10 – Stifled by Aurier and withdrawn at the break.
Elliot Anderson (46′ for Saint-Maximin) – 7/10 – His ingenuity and tactical flexibility made it hard for Forest to pin him down.
Matt Ritchie (84′ for Murphy) – N/A
Eddie Howe – 7/10 – Newcastle were the better side, but they probably should have carved out more clear cut chances considering how fragile Forest looked.
Player of the match – Alexander Isak (Newcastle)
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