A promotion party is being prepared for tomorrow night after a 3-2 win at Peterborough all but confirmed Newcastle United's return to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Nottingham Forest's refusal to lose at Bristol City means there is the slimmest of theoretical chances that this will not happen but any non-losing score against Sheffield United will see the champagne corks popped in earnest.
Newcastle's manager Chris Hughton, who says he prefers coffee, said: "We are nearly there, although it would have been nice to do it today. Hopefully we can finish the job on Monday. There is certainly a sense of relief about this game as it could have gone either way."
Hughton decided to make five changes for the trip to London Road, which is one of those throwback grounds that would have had certain members of a 4,000-strong away following reminiscing about the Malcolm Macdonald era.
The initial result was a sluggish first 45 minutes from Newcastle – the men in yellow and slightly darker yellow – although it was their goalkeeper Steve Harper, an automatic pick since the departure of Shay Given, who was at fault for Peterborough's opener in the 11th minute.
Harper came rushing out to put a size 12 through a long ball but succeeded only in clattering one of his own defenders, Fabricio Coloccini, and the loose ball was deftly despatched over the remaining defender by Dominic Green.
Posh playmaker Sergio Torres came close to making it 2-0 soon after with a lofted effort that cleared Harper but dropped just beyond the back post and a re-jigged Newcastle side, which included Joey Barton as a starter for the first time since he broke a foot back in September, continued to struggle.
Torres saw a shot across Harper's bows bobble just wide before the goalkeeper reacted to tip Charlie Lee's goal-bound header over from a trademark long throw from centre-back Exodus Geohaghon.
Newcastle had hardly threatened at the other end apart from a low drive from Kevin Nolan that home goalkeeper Joe Lewis was behind, and it was against the run of play when the same player levelled the score in first-half stoppage time.
Left-back Jose Enrique was the man who made it possible with a ball across the six-yard box from the left that Nolan converted to notch his 14th goal of the season.
It was a different story after the break when Barton curled in a free-kick in the 48th minute. It was the former England midfielder's third Newcastle goal in the three years since Manchester City received £5.8 million to take him off their hands.
Shola Ameobi had won the free-kick, with Gabriel Zakuani being booked for the foul, and the striker made it 3-1 in the 59th minute with an angled drive from outside the box that deceived Lewis and went in off a post.
Peterborough pulled one back with 14 minutes remaining however when Nolan could only flick on another prodigious Geohaghon throw for Liam Dickinson to bundle over the line. The Championship's bottom team, who are not quite relegated yet themselves, applied pressure until the end but could not find a way to ruin Newcastle's day.
Peterborough manager Jim Gannon has already decided he won't be dropping into League One with them next season and Gary Johnson, freshly discarded by Bristol City, was in the stands. Gannon made it clear he would make way for the new man if asked. "Gary would be an ideal candidate for this club," he said. "If he comes in now I will step aside if that is in the best interests of Peterborough United."Reuse content