LONDON (AFP) – Callum Wilson scored late on and then laid on another goal as Newcastle won 4-1 at home to Brighton on Thursday to move within sight of Champions League qualification.
Kieran Trippier’s dead-ball skills paved the way for Newcastle to go 2-0 up before half-time at St James’ Park, his crosses leading to an own-goal from Deniz Undav and a headed goal by Dan Burn.
Undav, however, pulled a goal back for Brighton early in the second half.
But with the Seagulls pushing for an equaliser, Wilson scored on the counter-attack a minute from full-time before setting up Bruno Guimaraes as the Magpies made it 4-1.
Victory left Newcastle third in the Premier League table and needing just one win from their remaining two league games this season, at home to Leicester on Monday and away to Chelsea, to secure a place among Europe’s elite.
And they will be assured of a top-four finish without having to kick a ball if Liverpool lose to Aston Villa on Saturday.
Brighton remained sixth despite this defeat and still in contention for Europa League football next season.
“I think we were excellent in the first half,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe told the BBC.
“A really strong performance, probably kicking ourselves we didn’t take some of the chances.”
As for the prospect of Champions League football, he added: “Yeah (we are close), but it is still so far away. We will enjoy tonight, but then turn our focus towards Leicester.
“I think we were just pleased with the performance tonight, to beat a side of their quality. We are not looking too far ahead.”
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, fresh from the Seagulls’ impressive 3-0 win at Arsenal, had no complaints about this result.
“We deserved to lose the game,” he said. “I don’t want to make any excuses. We conceded two goals in two set-pieces but we didn’t play well.”
Howe fielded the same starting XI that featured in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Leeds with injured duo Sean Longstaff and Jacob Murphy again missing from the squad.
By contrast, De Zerbi made four changes to the team which ran out for Sunday’s superb success at Arsenal with Jan Paul van Hecke, Facundo Buonanotte, Undav and Danny Welbeck replacing Levi Colwill, Alexis Mac Allister, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson respectively.
Newcastle’s early dominance was rewarded in the 23rd minute when Undav glanced a header into his own net trying to clear Trippier’s excellent inswinging corner.
And the northeast side doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time when Burn rose above the Brighton defence to head in from a Trippier free-kick.
Saudi-backed Newcastle had a chance to put the result beyond doubt five minutes after the break but Miguel Almiron’s shot from point-blank range was saved superbly by Jason Steele.
Barely a minute later, south coast side Brighton hit back when Undav ran onto Billy Gilmour’s through-ball before beating England keeper Nick Pope.
Newcastle, however, had the final say with Wilson’s 18th league goal this season, the most by a Newcastle player since 2003/04 when Alan Shearer scored 22 goals, crowning a rapid counter-attack in the 89th minute.
Wilson then turned provider in stoppage time, unselfishly squaring the ball for Bruno to spark joyous celebrations among the Newcastle faithful.