Ayoze Pérez scored a hat-trick to help Newcastle United beat Southampton in an entertaining clash at St James' Park on Saturday.
The in-form Pérez gave the home side the lead in the 27th with a cool finish into the bottom corner after Southampton had lost the ball in a dangerous area, and doubled his team's lead shortly afterwards, sliding in to finish at the back post from Salomón Rondon's cross.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl made two substitutions at half time and made a change in the visitors' system, freeing up some space, and was rewarded when Mario Lemina steered the ball into the corner from Stuart Armstrong's lay-off to pull a goal back in the 59th minute.
It ultimately proved to be just a consolation though, with Pérez intelligently heading the ball into the corner of the net from Matt Ritchie's header in the 86th minute to secure victory for the Magpies – and the match ball for himself.
Key Talking Point
The Magpies started the game on the front foot, with the front three of Almiron, Rondon and Pérez causing lots of problems for the visiting defence with their pace, strength and movement.
This proved to be decisive for the home side, Newcastle scoring two goals in a 10 minute spell in the first half.
However, after the Saints had pulled a goal back through Mario Lemina, it wasn't until Perez completed his hat-trick that the home crowd's nerves were settled, finally assured of all three points.
Starting XI: Dubravka (8); Manquillo (7), Schär (7), Lascelles (7), Dummett (7), Ritchie (7); Pérez (9*), Hayden (8), Ki (7), Almirón (7); Rondon (8).
Substitutes: Atsu (7), Fernandez (6), Diame (7)
Following his match-winning display against Leicester last week, expectations were high for Ayoze Pérez. He surpassed them. Not only were the Spaniard's finishes for the three goals excellent, but his dribbling, link-up play and movement were crucial to Newcastle's victory.
His first goal was a moment of individual quality – receiving the ball after Isaac Hayden had won it on the edge of the area, turning and driving into the box before coolly slotting between Bednarek's legs and into the bottom corner.
The second and third goals were a little simpler, if not straightforward, and now the Magpies are within touching distance of mathematically confirming their Premier League status for another year.
Key Talking Point
Southampton came into the game off the back of an impressive victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers, a lacklustre first-half performance failed to take advantage of that momentum.
The players lacked energy and creativity, and were overrun by the home side, and Maya Yoshida struggled to adapt to not having regular defensive partners Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Valery alongside him.
As well as having a poor game defensively, Yoshida missed two clear-cut chances that proved to be costly for the away side. The first came as a result of a fantastic corner from James Ward-Prowse, a header glanced side, before blazing over the bar from a Nathan Redmond cut-back.
Starting XI: Gunn (6); Ward-Prowse (5),Stephens (5), Bednarek (5), Yoshida (4), Bertrand (6); Sims (5), Romeu (6), Højbjerg (6), Redmond (6); Ings (6)
Substitutes: Armstrong (6), Lemina (7*), Long (6)
Finding themselves 2-0 down at half-time, Hasenhüttl brought on Mario Lemina and Stuart Armstrong for Jack Stephens and Josh Sims, switching from five at the back to a back four and reaping the rewards.
They dominated possession from the restart and Lemina delivered an excellent finish from the edge of the area to half the deficit in the 59th minute.
Lemina's crisp passing and creativity helped Southampton gain a foothold in the game and, even though his goal turned out only to be a consolation, Saints fans can take the positive of having the Gabon international back from injury.
Newcastle are back in action next Saturday, visiting struggling Brighton at the Amex before hosting title-chasing Liverpool at St James' Park on 5th May.
Southampton visit FA Cup finalists Watford on Tuesday before they face Bournemouth at St Mary's next Saturday.