It is looking hard to bet against a Newcastle United return to the Premier League. Even against a Coventry side whose spirit belied their league position, they were still strong enough, with goals from Shola Ameobi and Nile Ranger, to register a seventh consecutive win and extend their Championship lead to seven points.
The sequence is their best run of victories since Kevin Keegan's first Newcastle team won seven in a row in the Premier League in the autumn of 1996. A win at Barnsley will overtake the record for the Championship set by Wolves last season. Coventry are now 10 games without a win, although they deserved better on this occasion.
Chris Hughton, sensibly, is taking nothing for granted in a division notable for unexpected results. "We have had a little bit more than most opponents so far but we have not had a game that could be called easy," he said. "Tonight, if Coventry had put away one of their chances, it would have lifted them and made it difficult for us. But we were strong defensively and we scored at the right times."
Any time is a good time for a goal but you could see the point he was making. Chris Coleman's side, with seven players unavailable and two teenagers in their back four, gave as good as they got in the first half but conceded in stoppage time when Ameobi, making his first appearance since suffering an injury in August, spun away from Leon Barnett to beat Keiren Westwood at the near post.
"It was a better performance, against the best team in the league, but again we have not won," Coleman said. "They looked a bit shaky at times and had we scored we must have gone on to win the game."
Coventry's energy at the start of both halves supported Coleman's promise that an upset was possible, but they could not do enough to breach Newcastle's defence, which has not conceded a goal in four straight matches and boasts 12 clean sheets.
Yet Coventry's Leon Best almost scored after 38 minutes, his shot thudding against Steve Harper's crossbar, after being touched on by the goalkeeper's fingertips. Early in the second half, Ameobi bravely blocked Freddy Eastwood's fierce drive and more saves by Harper from Eastwood and Aron Gunnarsson added to the home crowd's frustration.
But Newcastle were well equipped for counter-attack, bringing on fresh strikers in Ranger and Marlon Harewood. That combination quickly went close to making certain of the points only for Patrick van Aanholt to make a goal-saving block. It was not long, however, before Ranger did put the outcome beyond doubt, the 18-year-old athletically volleying in his first senior goal from Jose Enrique's deep cross.
Coventry City (4-4-2): Westwood; Clarke (Grandison, 27), Cranie, Barnett, Van Aanholt; Eastwood, Cork (Madine,86), Gunnarsson (Bell, 86), McIndoe; Best, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Ireland (gk), McPake, Hussey, Jeffers.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Harper; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, Jose Enrique; Pancrate (R Taylor, 75), Butt, Smith, Gutierrez; Lovenkrands (Ranger, 64), Ameobi (Harewood, 64). Substitutes not used: Krul (gk), Guthrie, Khizanishvili, Kadar.
Referee: G Hegley (Hertfordshire).