Demba Ba, who would have became a Stoke player in January had Tony Pulis not deemed his knee condition "a massive risk", returned to haunt the Potteries club on Hallowe'en night with three goals that lifted unbeaten Newcastle into third place in the Premier League, a point behind Manchester United.
A case of hat-trick and treat, it might be said, and the ubiquitous Senegal international even found time to gift the hosts the late penalty which Jon Walters converted. Ba, who joined West Ham United after his move to Stoke from Hoffenheim in Germany collapsed but exercised his clause to leave on a free transfer if they were relegated, had struck twice before half-time. Then, after his folly fired Stoke's hope of a fightback, he ensured Newcastle joined Wigan as the only clubs to take three points at the Britannia Stadium in 2011 with his own spot-kick. He now has 15 top-flight goals in this calendar year, eight since the beginning of the season; only Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney boast better totals.
A section of the Stoke support booed Ba after he sarcastically cupped an ear to them after his first goal. "If they want to boo, they should boo their board," he said. "I'm very happy to score a hat-trick here because it's a place that teams come and struggle. I can't look back on the past. I was there to sign but they didn't want to sign me."
Pulis, who must now rally his troops for a Uefa Cup tie at Maccabi Tel-Aviv on Thursday evening, confirmed ruefully that he had actually wanted very much to sign Ba. "We really fancied Demba for a while," said the Stoke manager. "But we weren't getting him on a free. We were paying a package of £9m for him, and the medical people at the club, who are fantastic, didn't think he was worth the risk at the time."
His counterpart at Newcastle, Alan Pardew, purred about the movement, poise and "sheer confidence" the French-born striker showed but was anxious to emphasise the collective quality that has produced his club's best start in 15 years. Asked what targets he had set his players – who face games against the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea – Pardew replied: "We have an immediate goal: Everton on Saturday. I hope we can fill the stadium. The players deserve that. They've been magnificent. If we can get through that and go to City unbeaten (on 19 November) that would be fantastic."
Stoke was the scene of Newcastle's worst capitulation in nearly a year under Pardew's stewardship – a 4-0 defeat in March – and they withstood an early barrage of long throws from Rory Delap before stunning the crowd with a 12th-minute breakthrough. The irony of the goal's origins will not have been lost on those who stereotype Stoke as a route-one side. A towering drop-kick by the Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul was headed on by Leon Best – who Pulis claimed had come back from an offside position – to send Gabriel Obertan down the right. A measured cross found Ba, also unmarked, who then cushioned a header beyond Asmir Begovic.
Newcastle doubled their lead five minutes before the break, with an unwitting assist from Ba's former West Ham team-mate Matthew Upson. The substitute's loose header from a cross by Fabricio Coloccini fell to Best, who rolled the ball across goal for Ba to stroke it home. "Two poor goals," sighed Pulis, although a jubilant Geordie contingent were hardly complaining.
With 15 minutes left, Ba nudged over Peter Crouch and Walters thumped home the spot-kick. However, Robert Huth's equally innocuous but injudicious push on Best gave the miscreant the opportunity for instant redemption, which he accepted emphatically.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross (Upson, 19), Woodgate, Wilson (Huth, 41); Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington (Jones, 68); Crouch, Walters.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor; Obertan, Cabaye (Perch, 78) Guthrie ( Gosling, 90), Gutierrez; Best (Sammy Ameobi, 86), Ba.
Booked Newcastle Perch.
Referee M Dean (The Wirral).
Attendance 26,564.Reuse content