Erik Pieters' first Barclays Premier League goal secured a 1-0 win for Stoke City as they condemned Newcastle United to a fourth straight defeat.
The Dutchman found the net when his overhit cross from the edge of area looped over the head of Tim Krul just before the break. Peter Crouch could have extended the lead, spurning a flurry of headed chances, while Dan Gosling wasted Newcastle's best opening early on.
The result continues Stoke's impressive run at home, where they are unbeaten in the past six matches. Newcastle came into Saturday's game in poor form, having conceded 11 goals in a run of three consecutive defeats. It is a far cry from their position after a 5-1 victory over Mark Hughes' side in December, when Newcastle moved up to sixth and just three points adrift of a UEFA Champions League berth.
Alan Pardew's men were almost behind inside 10 minutes at the Britannia Stadium. A teasing cross from Marko Arnautovic found Crouch inside the six-yard box but the striker's header hit a post. Newcastle have only managed one league goal without absent striker Loic Remy in the starting line-up this season, but the visitors were handed a great chance to improve on that record two minutes later, when a Shola Ameobi flick-on found Gosling inside the area. But for the former Everton man could only divert his effort over the bar.
Newcastle began to look more comfortable in possession, with both Ameobi and Papiss Cisse causing problems. But the hosts responded after 26 minutes, when Arnautovic teed up Steven N'Zonzi and then Peter Odemwingie two minutes later, but neither could hit the target.
Stoke were rewarded for their efforts three minutes before the break as Pieters' lofted cross from the left eluded everyone, floating over the head of Netherlands team-mate Krul and into the net.
Arnautovic continued to provide a threat to the visitors and found Crouch again just after half-time, only for the towering striker to loop his header over the bar. Crouch had another great opportunity just after the hour, getting ahead of Mike Williamson before heading Geoff Cameron's cross straight at Krul.
Adam Armstrong and Hatem Ben Arfa were thrown on for the visitors as they looked to unlock a resolute home defence, but Stoke remained the better side. Arnautovic raced away once again down the left 15 minutes from time, before squaring to substitute Charlie Adam, who skewed his shot wide.
Vurnon Anita headed over for Newcastle late on after good work from Ameobi as the visitors searched for an equaliser, but Stoke held on to move to within three points of Pardew's charges.
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes: "We're pleased with what we're producing at the moment. We wanted to win because we're trying to catch Newcastle. I felt the performance was good. We restricted Newcastle to few clear opportunities."
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: "We just didn't get the breaks. I can't fault the character of the players and the honesty they showed."
|19 Apr 2014||v Cardiff (A)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|03 May 2014||v Fulham (H)|
|11 May 2014||v West Brom (A)|
|13 Sep 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|20 Sep 2014||v QPR (A)|