Ten-man Newcastle claimed a crucial 2-1 victory over QPR to confirm their Premier League survival at Loftus Road.
QPR went ahead in just the 11th minute as Loic Remy converted a penalty after Mathieu Debuchy bundled over Junior Hoilett on the edge of the Newcastle box in what was a very dubious decision, but referee Lee Probert levelled it up seven minutes later as Hatem Ben Arfa slammed home a spot kick after having been fouled by Jose Bosingwa.
Newcastle had gone 262 minutes without a Premier League goal prior to the match while QPR had gone 365 minutes without scoring themselves.
But both were on the board early before a calamitous backpass from Bosingwa put Rob Green under pressure, and he sliced a clearance to Yoan Gouffran who passed the ball into an empty net for what proved to be the decisive contribution.
It was a hapless performance at the back from Harry Redknapp’s side, who suffered their 20th defeat of a pitiful campaign, while for Newcastle it was a priceless three points - particularly after goalkeeper Rob Elliot brainlessly earned a second yellow card late on for handling outside his penalty area.
The result means that the Magpies have successfully staved off the long-standing threat of being dragged into the relegation mire, since the fact that Wigan play Aston Villa on the final day means that Newcastle cannot be caught by both sides.
Newcastle and QPR both pressed forward incessantly from the outset, and it did not take long for the opening goal to be scored as Hoilett cut inside sharply from the left and was brought down on the edge of the box by Debuchy. Replays indicated that the challenge was made outside the penalty area, but referee Probert had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Remy coolly slid the ball into the bottom corner of the net as Elliot dived the wrong way, and QPR capitalised on what was a debatable decision as the Newcastle players surrounded the official once more to display their disgust. The goal meant that Newcastle now share the joint-worst defensive record in the league along with Reading and Wigan, having conceded 67 goals.
Within seconds of making a quite brilliant interception to deny Yohan Cabaye a shot on goal at the other end, Bosingwa cynically tugged on Ben Arfa’s shirt to allow referee Probert to level things up swiftly with a second penalty decision in seven minutes. It was a case of the inspired being followed by the ridiculous.
Ben Arfa stepped up and slammed the ball home with an emphatic finish into the roof of the net, and goalkeeper Green was left with absolutely no chance of getting near the effort from the midfielder as Newcastle restored parity after a very sluggish start to the match.
QPR should have regained their slender lead just after the half hour mark as Hoilett raced into the box and proceeded to play a neat one-two with Bobby Zamora inside the Newcastle box, but he could only plant a tame shot straight at a relieved Elliot, who parried the ball wide to safety.
Four minutes later it was Newcastle who netted the third goal of the match after a shocking backpass from the absurdly casual Bosingwa left Green to clear, but he could only slide and slice the ball to Gouffran, who gleefully tapped into an empty net amid farcical scenes at the back from the hosts.
Bosingwa was roundly booed by the home fans following the second Newcastle goal, and Redknapp acted swiftly and ruthlessly to replace both him and the ineffectual Stephane Mbia at half-time with Shaun Derry and Fabio introduced.
Another clear-cut chance fell to Hoilett just after the hour mark, but the winger could only bend a hopeful shot wide of the far post after having created space on the edge of the Newcastle box, much to the frustration of the home supporters who were soon cheering with misplaced hope as Elliot was shown a second yellow card after handling outside his penalty area. Ben Arfa had to be sacrificed with veteran Steve Harper - who is to retire at the end of the season - making a brief but reassuring appearance.
Armand Traore and Green took turns to produce some comically lax defending as the full back tapped the ball back unnecessarily to his keeper, who dozily picked up the ball and conceded a free kick inside the penalty area. Fortunately for the hosts the free kick hit the wall, but Redknapp was understandably furious at his players’ brainless play.
Zamora squandered a glorious opportunity from close range in the final minute of the match as he somehow managed to volley over from 12 yards out, and Newcastle managed to preserve their slender advantage to close out three points that are of huge value to Alan Pardew’s underachievers in what has been both a challenging and worrying campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Fabricio Coloccini – A reassuring rock at the heart of the Newcastle defence with many of his team-mates losing their composure all around him. Showed why he has been so sorely missed for parts of the season.
QPR: Green 5; Bosingwa 4, Onuoha 6, Hill 6, Traore 5; Townsend 7, Jenas 5, Mbia 5, Hoilett 6; Remy 7, Zamora 5. Subs: Fabio 6, Derry 6, Taarabt 6.
NEWCASTLE: Elliot 5; Debuchy 5, Williamson 7, Coloccini 8, Yanga-Mbiwa 6; Tiote 6, Cabaye 6, Gutierrez 6; Ben Arfa 7, Cisse 6, Gouffran 7. Subs: Harper 6, Perch 6, Obertan 6.