Newcastle United 4 Norwich City 3
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City slipped to a heart-breaking stoppage time defeat in a breathless 4-3 Championship loss at Newcastle United on Wednesday night.
City led with 95 minutes played, in a minimum of six additional minutes at the end of a pulsating contest, but Yoan Gouffran levelled before Dwight Gayle sealed his hat-trick to spark delirium inside St James' Park.
Desolate Norwich players littered the turf while Alex Neil could only stand with his hands on his head as the carnage unfolded.
Norwich had led 3-1 in the second period with Graham Dorrans' first half penalty and goals from Cameron Jerome and Jacob Murphy's deflected shot cancelling out Gayle's opener.
Gayle scored again seconds after Murphy's strike but Norwich looked to have weathered the storm before a savage stoppage time finale.
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Neil made two changes from the starting line up from the weekend Championship win against Burton. Timm Klose was a notable absentee from the matchday squad, after previously being an ever-present in the league. Seb Bassong replaced the Swiss international with Ryan Bennett offering cover on the bench. Fit-again midfielder Alex Tettey was also passed fit after his recent hip injury, with Wes Hoolahan dropping to the bench and Jonny Howson pushed into a more central role. Steven Naismith was included among the substitutes for his first league involvement since the 3-0 defeat at Birmingham prior to the last international break.
Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez named Gayle as a lone striker with Mohamed Diame his chief support from midfield. Benitez's side also showed two changes from the team that drew at Aston Villa. Karl Darlow made his first league start of the season in goal for Matz Sels and Jack Colback replaced Isaac Hayden.
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Howson was dovetailing with Jerome in the early sparring, but Norwich's wide players were very quick to tuck when Newcastle were in possession in a bid to deny the Magpies space down the flanks.
You could almost feel the mutual respect between two sets of players who would justifiably expect to fight it out at the sharp end this season in the early sparring. Jacob Murphy was left in no doubt by his manager a half-hearted attempt to win the ball would not be tolerated in this contest but Martin Olsson did enough to thwart Matt Ritchie.
Such early détente abruptly ended when Colback left a calling card on Olsson which earned the former Sunderland midfielder a booking.
Michael McGovern came to his side's aid in the 12th minute with a stunning point blank reaction stop to deny Gayle, who was left unattended to volley DeAndre Yedlin's cross from Jonjo Shelvey's diagonal pass barely five yards out.
The time and space afforded Shelvey to showcase his range of passing must have been a concern to Neil.
Gayle spurned another great chance for the hosts, when Russell Martin appeared to misjudge the flight of a hopeful clearing punt, allowing the ex-Crystal Palace to steer a right-footed shot from 12 yards beyond McGovern's left-hand post.
Gayle was denied again by McGovern from Ritchie's corner with the home fans sensing a breakthrough before Ritchie's header cannoned back off the bar as the home onslaught raged unabated. Newcastle's weight of attacking pressure finally told in the 25th minute when Gayle darted to the near post to slot Ritchie's cross.
Shelvey continued to set a frenetic pace for the Magpies, with Norwich's central midfield seemingly unable to swarm around the one-time England international. Tettey did finally catch up with Shelvey five minutes from the interval, which allowed Neil to impart some instructions to his frazzled players during a break in play for treatment to the stricken Newcastle midfielder.
City managed to establish a measure of parity, in terms of possession, in the final moments of the opening period with Jacob Murphy triggering a minor alarm at the expense of a corner punched clear by Darlow.
And the visitors earned an improbable lifeline in the 44th minute when Yoan Gouffran clipped Brady as the Irishman tried to work a shooting space inside the Newcastle area. Referee Bankes pointed to the penalty spot and Dorrans kept his cool to send Darlow the wrong way, after two spot kick misses from the Canaries in their last two league outings.
Norwich's new-found confidence was evident from the start of the second period with Dorrans now the dominant influence in central midfield at the expense of Shelvey. But it was City's rapier counter-attacking prowess that brought a second. Bassong's towering header set Howson free who rolled in Jacob Murphy to whip a cross superbly controlled at the far post by Jerome before an instinctive curling finish on the angle over Darlow capped a devastating incision.
But the game reached new heights of intensity with a double blast inside a minute. First Jacob Murphy looked to have provided some breathing space when his deflected shot looped over Darlow but the razor-sharp Gayle reduced the deficit from the kick-off when he burst past Bassong to slam a low shot past McGovern from eight yards.
The ferocity spilled over into a number of running skirmishes that tested the ability of referee Bankes to keep control as the home crowd bayed for punishment against any offenders in yellow.
Ryan Bennett was introduced for the final 10 minutes for Jacob Murphy, with City deploying a back five to stem the home tide.
Gayle dragged a 25-yard free kick just wide before Neil withdrew Jerome for Nelson Oliveira. City hardly needed to see a minimum of six additional minutes appear on the fourth official's board but McGovern relieved the mounting pressure with a clean take from Ritchie's free kick.
But there was a scarcely believable finish when Gouffran was left unmarked to bundle home an equaliser in the 95th minute before Gayle improbably smashed a low winner to complete his hat-trick and spark wild scenes of celebration among the home supporters.
• Newcastle United: Darlow, Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett (Atsu 90), Ritchie, Shelvey, Colback (Hayden 71), Gouffran, Diame (Mitrovic 71), Gayle. Subs (not used): Sels, Mbemba, Lazaar, Perez.
• Bookings: Colback (foul on Olsson, 9); Ritchie (foul on Jacob Murphy, 40); Dummett (dissent, 43); Mitrovic (dissent, 74); Lascelles (dissent, 78)
• Goals: Gayle (25, 70, 90+6); Gouffran (90+5)
• Norwich: McGovern, Pinto, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Tettey, Dorrans, Jacob Murphy (Bennett 79), Howson, Brady, Jerome (Oliveira 86). Subs (not used): Ruddy, Naismith, Hoolahan, Josh Murphy, Thompson.
• Bookings: Brady (foul on Yedlin, 45); Howson (foul on Clark, 59); Dorrans (ungentlemanly conduct, 60); Olsson (dissent, 74); Jerome (dissent, 78)
• Goals: Dorrans (44), Jerome (52), Jacob Murphy (69)
• Time added on: 3 minutes / 6 minutes
• Referee: Peter Bankes (Liverpool)
• Attendance: 48,236