Ahmed Elmohamady’s late header rescued a point for Aston Villa at Newcastle, but it was not enough to lift Dean Smith’s relegation-threatened side out of the Premier League’s bottom three.
The Egyptian stooped low to divert his effort into the net from a corner just six minutes after coming on as a substitute, shortly after Dwight Gayle’s goal for Newcastle had looked like giving United the points.
Gayle’s impact was even more immediate than that of El Mohamady, with his neatly-taken finish coming just 94 seconds after he was introduced for the injured Matt Ritchie.
Villa’s point is reward for a first half in which they were the more positive of the two sides, and also their determination not to allow themselves to sink to another damaging defeat.
It may not take them out of the relegation zone but it will be a boost after they were denied by Sheffield United in their first game after the restart and allowed Chelsea to come back to beat them on Sunday.
Newcastle are now just a point shy of the 40-point mark – often cited as the tally required to ward off the threat of relegation.
Villa refuse to give up
It has been a frustrating return for Villa.
The repeated failure of their relegation rivals to pick up points has presented the opportunity for them to claw their way out of the bottom three, but although they have come close, they have not been able to find that elusive win.
Granted, they benefited from a failure of technology in their home draw against Sheffield United but having done so could easily have taken three points as opposed to one.
They then almost burgled a win against Chelsea on Sunday, taking the lead despite having precious little of the ball, before the Blues rallied to turn the game their way.
This may only be the second point they have taken from the last 21 avaialable to them but it is a timely boost, reminding them that they can mix it with some of the top-flight’s most stubborn sides and may yet well edge themselves ahead of a faltering pack of sides above them.
They should have led in the first half, but Trezeguet and Mbwana Samatta both spurned chances on their return to the side.
The best fell to the former, who hit his back-post effort into the ground and over after being found by a superb cross from Ezri Konsa.
Newcastle’s goal could have been a hammer blow, but in the end it was the home side hanging on.
Newcastle take the positives
Newcastle produced arguably one the finest displays of the first initial round of games back, winning 3-0 at home against an admittedly under-par Sheffield United, who played for 40 minutes with 10 men.
Everything that could have gone right for the Magpies did in that game and it looked like that form was going to continue on Wednesday, as misfortune in the shape of Ritchie’s injury immediately turned into a positive courtesy of Gayle’s tidy finish – his first Premier League goal in 773 days.
The assist for that goal also came from a man making a quick impact, with Andy Carroll’s pass coming just four minutes and 51 seconds after he had been sent on by Steve Bruce.
Before then, the home side had battled hard but were too reliant on the creative pair of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, who threatened in flashes but failed to produce anything decisive.
After breaking his 27 game and 10 month drought on Sunday, Joelinton could have added another league strike to his meagre tally of two, but Tyrone Mings denied him with a superb challenge in the box.
Elmohamady’s goal is a setback, ending a run of three successive clean sheets, but only a minor one for a side that have already exceeded many critics’ expectations this season.
Bruce was asked after the game if would have taken 39 points at this stage of the campaign if offered it at the beginning. His positive answer will be a surprise to nobody.