Newcastle United returned to winning ways at St James’ Park, with a stunning strike and a stunning save ensuring the Magpies moved to within two points of 5th placed Chelsea.

Papiss Cisse netted his third goal in five games for his new club with a beautifully taken volley, while Tim Krul had to be at his very best to deny Zak Whitbread. The home side could maybe have had more goals – especially in the first half – but Norwich dug in and had John Ruddy to thank for a string of excellent saves to keep the damage to a single goal.

Alan Pardew was forced into some last-minute tactical switches to his starting line-up, with Jonas Gutierrez playing at left-back ahead of Davide Santon, whilst James Perch took the place of the injured Cheick Tiote. Yohan Cabaye took Gutierrez’s usual left-wing slot.

The hosts started excellently, applying pressure to Norwich’s sluggish defence. The opening goal should have came after just two minutes, when Cisse expertly avoided the Canaries’ offside trap but couldn’t lift his attempted lob over Ruddy in the Norwich goal.

Former Freiburg striker Cisse was looking lively though, and he soon got another chance when Gutierrez surged forward down the left wing. The Argentine’s left-foot cross was perfect for Cisse to attack and the new Magpies’ number nine connected with a fantastic first-time finish to give Newcastle a deserved lead.

The home side were comfortably in control and Norwich looked like lambs to the slaughter, but some self-inflicted danger almost gave Paul Lambert’s side an unlikely way back into the game. Predictably, Hatem Ben Arfa was the first culprit, choosing to pass to Mike Williamson rather than clearing his lines. Williamson was also guilty of the exact same mistake though, and once Steve Morison had robbed the former Portsmouth defender, Jonny Howson flashed a shot over Krul’s crossbar.

The scare seemed to spur Newcastle back into life though, and the chances soon started to flow. First, Demba Ba went close with a deft flick from Cabaye’s cross which Ruddy did excellently to tip round the post, before Cisse had a golden opportunity to double his tally, but the Norwich stopper again denied the Senegal striker with a good save.

Norwich were struggling to create chances in the final third all afternoon, but could have gone into half-time level when Andrew Surman found himself in acres of space inside the Newcastle area, but shanked his volley well wide of Krul’s far post.

After the break, Newcastle took a slightly more conservative approach to proceedings, while Cisse continued his ongoing battle with Ruddy. The striker had a long-distance effort repelled by the potential England ‘keeper, with no black and white shirts following up.

It was the Canaries’ who tried to force the issue though, and they would have grabbed an equaliser had it not been for the fantastic reflexes of Krul in the Newcastle goal. First, the Dutch stopper kept out Anthony Pilkington’s low shot at his near post, before the resulting corner was eventually met by Zak Whitbread from close range, only for Krul to pull off a marvellous instinctive save.

In a move to protect the slender lead, Pardew replaced the frustrating Ben Arfa with Santon, and the change allowed more defensive structure, rather than relying on the tackle-shy Frenchman to pull his defensive weight.

It seemed to work too, with the home side looking more stable and repelling any Norwich attacks, despite the introduction of Grant Holt. One of the reasons for Newcastle’s comfortableness was James Perch, with the former Nottingham Forest man excelling in his defensive midfield position.

Late in the day, substitute Shola Ameobi had a strong appeal for a handball turned down and could have been through on goal just seconds later, only for referee Phil Dowd to blow for time and send the Geordies to within two points of Chelsea.