Norwich City 3 Newcastle 2
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich edged a breathless Premier League clash with Martin Olsson's stoppage time winner moving the Canaries four points clear of the relegation zone in a dramatic survival shoot-out against Newcastle United.
The Magpies looked to have salvaged a point when Aleksandar Mitrovic notched his second from the penalty spot in the 86th minute after captain Gary O'Neil was penalised for handball but Olsson's angled finish sparked joyous scenes among the home faithful.
Timm Klose had given Norwich the lead in first half stoppage time before Mitrovic's looping header brought the visitors level, but Dieumerci Mbokani's thumping hit restored Norwich's lead before a late grandstand finish.
Neil made three changes from the starting line up that beat West Brom 1-0 prior to the international break. Captain Russell Martin was absent from the matchday squad with Andre Wisdom making his first Premier League appearance since December 12. Ryan Bennett was preferred to Seb Bassong alongside March's player-of-the-month Klose, with Steven Naismith back and Patrick Bamford dropping to the bench.
The Chelsea loanee was joined by Nathan Redmond, who returned three weeks after rolling his ankle against Manchester City.
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Magpies' chief Rafa Benitez made five changes from the side who drew 1-1 in the Tyne-Wear Premier League derby against Sunderland, with Papiss Cisse leading the line in place of Mitrovic and Karl Darlow in for the injured Rob Elliot after the Republic of Ireland keeper suffered knee ligament damage on international duty.
Newcastle started on the front foot in a raucous atmosphere whipped up by both sets of fans, with Jonjo Shelvey a visible early presence on the ball.
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Cheick Tiote earned a lecture from referee Dean for a crude lunge on Mbokani but the visitors were able to clear the initial danger.
John Ruddy was momentarily forced to back pedal but Cisse's looping header from Shelvey's cross drifted over from 12 yards.
Mbokani's nuisance value earned Naismith a first chance to test third-choice Darlow who dropped on his low right-footed shot from 20 yards out.
The DR Congo frontman rifled home in the 17th minute from close range but the assistant's flag was instantly raised after Mbokani was clearly the wrong side of the last man in finishing Jonny Howson's low cross.
Darlow then spilled Robbie Brady's hooked cross at his far post but gathered again after Wisdom had powered down the right flank.
Naismith linked intelligently with Mbokani but Steven Taylor raced across at the expense of a corner only for captain Gary O'Neil's dipping cross to eventually reach Darlow in a congested six-yard box.
The front pair then combined again just past the half-hour mark to free the overlapping Brady, but on his right the angled shot lacked the power to trouble Darlow.
The Magpies' back-up keeper superbly foiled Mbokani with his legs in the 33rd minute to keep out the striker's sidefooted effort from barely six yards following Naismith's cut-back.
Shelvey escaped the attentions of Naismith in the closing stages of the opening period only to lash over from the edge of the Norwich penalty area.
But Norwich struck in time added on when Klose glanced home Brady's dipping free kick after the Newcastle supporters had held onto the ball for a good minute to delay the taking of the set piece.
Benitez made a change at the interval with Ayoze Perez replacing Tiote. Wisdom picked out Matt Jarvis' overlapping run in behind Vurnon Anita but there were no takers in yellow for his cross that bisected the six yard line.
Cisse's ambitious long range half-volley clipped the top of Ruddy's netting with the Magpies already showing a greater sense of urgency.
The Newcastle frontman then screwed a first time shot wide from the angle of the six yard box after Ruddy brilliantly parried Townsend's low goalbound hit.
Klose was forced to divert Daryl Janmaat's cross behind at his near post with the Dutch international exhorting more noise from the travelling support.
Benitez made a second changed in the 62nd minute with Mitrovic bolstering the Newcastle attack for full-back Anita.
Wisdom broke the growing siege when he chopped back onto his left but thumped over from the edge of the penalty area following Naismith's clever reverse pass.
Mitrovic chested Moussa Sissoko's cross but Ruddy was fully behind his volley. The City keeper, however, had no chance with Mitrovic's looping header from Townsend's cross that dragged the visitors back into the contest.
But the Magpies were on level terms for less than two minutes when Mbokani cut inside Janmaat to crash an unstoppable rising shot into Darlow's top left-hand corner.
Naismith clubbed a left-footed effort well over in his final contribution before exiting for Wes Hoolahan. Mbokani followed shortly after for Cameron Jerome.
Disaster struck for Norwich in the 85th minute when Perez burst into the box and his flick struck O'Neil's outstretched arm. Referee Dean had no hesitation in awarding a penalty and Mitrovic stepped up to double his tally, although Ruddy guessed correctly but was unable to keep out the fearsome spot kick.
Newcastle surged forward in search of an improbable winner and Ruddy had to fly across his line to claw out Cisse's goalbound close range header with the Canaries unable to get out of their own penalty area.
But there was one, glorious final twist when Olsson rifled home a priceless winner three minutes into stoppage time after Redmond and O'Neil had combined down the right before Howson rolled in the Swedish international.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Wisdom, Bennett, Klose, Olsson, Jarvis (Redmond 75), Howson, O'Neil, Brady, Naismith (Hoolahan 81), Mbokani (Jerome 85). Subs (not used): Rudd, Bassong, Bamford, Mulumbu.
• Goals: Klose (45+2), Mbokani (74), Olsson (90+3)
• Newcastle: Darlow, Wijnaldum, Sissoko, Anita (Mitrovic 62), Cisse, Shelvey, Mbemba, Janmaat, Tiote (Perez 45), Townsend, Taylor. Subs (not used): Woodman, De Jong, Lascelles, Riviere, Sterry.
• Goals: Mitrovic (71, 86)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
• Attendance: 27,137