Since the turn of the year, Newcastle's return to the Premier League has been a matter not of if, but when. They will have a first opportunity to answer that question on Saturday, when victory at Peterborough, coupled with an eighth consecutive away defeat for their comprehensively vanquished opponents here, will officially end their short exile from the top flight.
Unbowed at home, and with just four league defeats all season, a 10th game unbeaten was sealed with a club record 20th clean sheet. The statistics are impressive. It is testament to West Bromwich Albion's staying power that they remain only four points behind, albeit having played a game more.
Forest have hung in there, but now 13 points in arrears, they will be charged with a spot of overtime courtesy of the play-offs if they want to follow the hosts' upward mobility.
Shola Ameobi marked his return from injury as a second-half substitute with a composed shot on the turn from inside the area that found its way into Lee Camp's net off the foot of a post. "We're not there yet," insisted Jose Enrique, whose first goal for the club, confidently dispatched with his weaker right foot after cutting into the box in stoppage time, embellished the margin of victory. The Spaniard added: "But it might just be the most important three points of the season."
If not at London Road, should Forest avoid defeat at Bristol City, then perhaps Newcastle's promotion will be sealed at home to Sheffield United on Monday. "It was three points we were desperate for," Chris Hughton admitted, then added: "We have a decent lead on Forest, but we must keep our focus until the job is complete."
The outcome might have been different had an unmarked Dexter Blackstock not scuffed a presentable first-half opening wide from a dozen yards. "I'd like to congratulate Newcastle," Billy Davies, the Forest manager, said, seemingly conceding top spot to the Champions-elect.
Newcastle United (4-4-2) Harper; Simpson, Coloccini, Williamson, Enrique; Routledge, Nolan, Guthrie, Gutierrez; Carroll (Ameobi, 48), Lovenkrands (Barton, 90). Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), R Taylor, Best, Butt, Kadar.
Nottingham Forest (4-4-2) Camp; Perch, Morgan, Wilson, Gunter; Anderson, Moussi, Majewski (Earnshaw, 72), Cohen; Tyson (McCleary, 69), Blackstock (McGoldrick, 77). Substitutes not used: Smith (gk), Chambers, McGugan, Adebola.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).Reuse content