Newcastle United have extended their winless run to six games after West Brom edged a late-night thriller on Tyneside. A brace of equalisers from Demba Ba was not enough for the Geordies to hold off the Baggies, who took the lead three times before Paul Scharner’s late strike allowed Roy Hodgson’s side to eventually hang on.

With suspension and injury affecting Alan Pardew’s team selection, there was a first ever Premier League start for Haris Vuckic in centre midfield. James Perch continued in the centre of defence, with Mike Williamson being made to settle for a place on the bench.

The Baggies, full of confidence from their last-gasp win over Blackburn at the weekend, started brightly, with Peter Odemwingie firing in his second goal in four days. The Nigerian striker was superbly played through by a sublime outside of the foot pass from Chris Brunt and held off Fabricio Coloccini before easily beating Tim Krul.

Newcastle responded immediately, with Ba smashing home a loose ball in the box, only to be denied his 12th goal of the season by the linesman’s flag. The offence came from Leon Best, who had been offside in the build-up to Ba’s goal.

However, the 51,000 plus crowd in attendance could see Ba was in the mood for goals. He soon had his name on the score sheet when Gabriel Obertan’s run was ended prematurely on the edge of the box. Ba, taking over free-kick responsibility in the absence of Ryan Taylor and Yohan Cabaye, stepped up to curl a powerful effort straight into Ben Foster’s top corner, with the former England goalkeeper unable to keep it out.

Ten minutes later, Ba was again involved in a free-kick but at the other end, when he pushed Youssouf Mulumbu to concede a set-piece just inside his own half. Brunt’s quality again became apparent when he effortlessly coasted a pass to the far post, where Jonas Olsson headed it back across goal and Gareth McAuley was there to nod home and restore West Brom’s lead.

With the lead, the visitors showed no intent to build on their advantage and instead chose to try and hit Newcastle on the counter attack, allowing the home side to dominate possession.

Haris Vuckic enjoyed a sterling performance in centre midfield and he nearly had the perfect early Christmas present when his cracker smashed back off both crossbar and post and bounced to safety, despite Ba’s best efforts.

As Newcastle tried harder to gain their second equaliser, the Baggies’ tactics became apparent. Shane Long burst onto a fine Mulumbu pass and found himself one-on-one with Krul, before rounding the Dutch keeper but only hitting the bar with his effort from a tight angle.

Eventually, the pressure from the Geordies was telling. Hatem Ben Arfa, on as a substitute, linked well with Ba and the Frenchman’s clever reverse pass found the former West Ham striker, who smashed his effort high into Foster’s net.

The pendulum of the match had swung firmly back in Newcastle’s favour, and they almost had the lead when Vuckic’s second stunning long-range drive looked goal bound, only for Foster to stretch and tip the powerful effort over the bar.

As Newcastle pushed on and risked everything trying to get the winner, they ultimately self-destructed.

The Baggies broke away from another Newcastle attack and Long broke away from Coloccini on the right before supplying a cross for Odemwingie. The centre looked too long but the former Lokomotiv Moscow striker nodded back into the path of the stretching Scharner, who toe-poked a half-volley past Krul and into the far corner.

There was one last chance for the home side to cap off a fantastic night of entertainment in the north-east, when Cheick Tiote got on the end of Ben Arfa’s low cross. The man who got the infamous goal to salvage a 4-4 draw against Arsenal last season couldn’t repeat the feat this time though, as his volley was kept out by Foster and time ran out for Alan Pardew’s side.

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