If Newcastle manage to qualify for the Champions League, they will get to look back at the night they did it.
The visitors ended Nottingham Forest’s nine-match unbeaten home run in the league when Alexander Isak converted an injury time penalty – his second goal of the night – to put Eddie Howe’s side within one point of fourth-placed Tottenham.
It was a ridiculous handball from Moussa Niakhate that gave Newcastle their chance and Isak, who had previously leveled after Emmanuel Dennis’ opener, scored the penalty after persuading Kieran Trippier to give him the ball. He hit the net with the class expected from a player costing £60 million.
After their first defeat here since September, Forest remain just two points above the bottom three and unless they can improve their away form they are sliding into big trouble.
After a slow start to 2023, Newcastle looked like their old self again last weekend by beating Wolves 2-1 and they started it with a lot of poise.
Bos was cut open on their left in the sixth minute when Kieran Trippier let go of Jacob Murphy.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER REVIEWS
Nottingham Forest (4-2-3-1): Navas 7; Aurier 5, Felipe 8, Niakhate 6, Lodi 6; Yates 7 (Freuler 58, 6), Shelvey 6; Johnson 5, Gibbs-White 6, Dennis 7 (Williams 79); Ayew 6 (Surridge 79).
Subs not used: Hennessey, Worrall, Colback, Toffolo, Danilo, Scarpa.
Goal scorers:Dennis 26
Booked: Dennis, Gibbs-White
Manager: Steve Cooper 6
Newcastle (4-3-3): Pope 6; Trippier 6, Dab 6.5, Botman 5.5, Burn 7; Longstaff 6.5, Guimaraes 7.5, Willock 7; Murphy 8 (Ritchie 84), Isak 8.5, Saint-Maximin 5 (Anderson 46, 7.5).
Subs not used: Dubravka, Dummett, Lascelles, Wilson, Lewis, Targett, Manquillo.
Goal scorers: Isaac 45+2
Booked: To burn
Manager: Eddie Howe 7
Referee: Paul Tierney 6
The first cross was perfectly weighted for the attacking Joe Willock, whose finish didn’t match his run from midfield as he fired wide from the penalty spot.
Soon after, the home side were given another indulgence when Trippier, who featured prominently in the early stages, took a clever free-kick on Alexander Isak.
The Swede’s shot was weak, but the deflection from Brennan Johnson and Serge Aurier meant that Renan Lodi didn’t have time to react. The ball bounced off the Brazilian’s knee against the crossbar.
Moments later, Newcastle demanded a penalty as Bruno Guimaraes fell under Dennis’ challenge, while Ryan Yates and Willock engaged in an ongoing feud, with both lucky to avoid a yellow card.
Dennis wasn’t so lucky in the 22nd minute when he robbed Trippier, but he earned a yellow card as referee Paul Tierney deemed his challenge dangerous.
Forest was furious, but four minutes later they were leading. Sven Botman’s back pass to Nick Pope was hit under and after Dennis grabbed the ball, the chance seemed to be gone for a while.
The Nigerian knew otherwise though, as he produced a brilliant chip from a tight angle that sailed into the top corner.
Dan Burn was quickly booked for a hefty challenge on Yates and was then provoked by the home crowd.
Sean Longstaff nearly silenced them when he became the second player to hit the woodwork.
Murphy again did the damage, outrunning Lodi to find Longstaff, whose 20-yard effort cut Felipe and came back off the crossbar.
Newcastle finally found the equalizer they deserved with Willock at the heart of it. The midfielder’s cross eluded Aurier’s jump and was converted on the volley by Isak. It was an unorthodox finish – possibly more shin than boot – for his second in as many games.
Newcastle picked up where they left off in the second half with Elliot Anderson, a half-time substitute for Alain Saint-Maximin, immediately involved. First he gave Felipe a huge scare by beating him to a long down kick, before drawing a brilliant stop from Keylor Navas with a volley from Murphy’s cross.
Forest then suffered a blow when Yates, who had been tigerish in midfield, was injured shortly before the hour mark and replaced by Remo Freuler. But their luck was a little later when Muprhy played in Longstaff, only for the midfielder to lose his footing at the crucial moment. There, Newcastle drained confidence and Guimaraes forced Navas to reverse his rising drive. Forest nervously defended the corner, but Anderson shot high and wide from the edge of the box.
Guimaraes had started the game quietly, but his influence was growing by the second and he played a part in the move that Newcastle believe had put them ahead.
The Brazilian’s pass found Isak and when Moussa failed to clear Niakhate, Isak played a fantastic ball to the far post where Anderson outsmarted Aurier and headed past Navas.
The Newcastle bench cheered, but not for long. After a long delay, the goal was disallowed as Isak’s original cross had bounced back to Longstaff, who was in an offside position. Tierney checked the screen to make sure and the decision to disallow the goal was greeted with a huge roar.
Newcastle continued to push on Murphy who hit wide from a promising position.
There was still time for Aurier to cut the line and for Felipe to produce another brilliant block, before Pope saved Newcastle by saving Johnson’s slanted effort with his feet after a rare break. But then Niakhate made a great roar and Newcastle took full advantage. The bank’s celebrations showed how important it was to them.