Joe Kinnear's frustration could be seen and heard yesterday. As his Newcastle United side seemed destined to squander another lead and draw a third consecutive home match, Kinnear's edginess was visible as he hopped from foot to foot in anguish. It was also audible in the expletive directed at Jose Enrique when he took the Spanish left-back off in the 88th minute. Kinnear did not know then that this was the game's defining moment.
On went Damien Duff. Plenty of fans will have been questioning the merit of such a late switch. Within two minutes, however, the substitution was judged inspired and Kinnear was on the pitch celebrating as Duff performed a fast one-two with Mark Viduka and slipped the ball wide of Heurelho Gomes.
From conceding dispiriting last-minute equalisers to Stoke's Abdoulaye Faye and Wigan's Titus Bramble in the previous two home games, Newcastle had a taste of the opposite. They are unbeaten in Kinnear's six games at St James' Park and after four draws in a row, it is now back-to-back victories.
The win takes Newcastle to 12th in the Premier League and Kinnear said he is "looking upwards", but he acknowledged that this was "touch and go between us, Tottenham have a lot of good players".
The Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, was more forthright. "I said at half-time to the players: 'I wouldn't take a point here, it's three points for us if we get it going right.' I couldn't see any problems for us. We didn't deserve to get beaten, that's for sure."
That opinion was understandable but Tottenham are 16th, one point off relegation. But they played and moved with tradition. Kinnear had talked up the legacy of Tottenham's passing game as an influence upon him – he was at White Hart Lane for a decade – but Charles N'Zogbia's opener was so route one it was fitting it came beneath the giant Sports Direct sign on top of the Gallowgate end.
When Given caught a cross, the Irishman was in the midst of a group of players. Given looked up but took a couple of moments assessing who was up front for Newcastle. No one was, but then N'Zogbia started covering the ground at such speed Given gave it a go. A punt of around 55 yards had N'Zogbia sprinting with desire and Benoît Assou-Ekotto backtracking with fear. Allowing the ball to bounce did not aid the Spurs man and N'Zogbia grabbed possession. Assou-Ekotto then wrestled N'Zogbia, in the area, and the crowd's claim was for a penalty. But N'Zogbia kept going, swivelled and from 10 yards beat Gomes with his right foot.
Newcastle had a bit of swagger then. The game was high-tempo. But home momentum was lost suddenly and out of nothing.
Sixteen minutes after N'Zogbia struck, Danny Guthrie played a simple midfield pass forward to Shola Ameobi, whose slack first touch enabled Michael Dawson to muscle in from behind and boot the ball forward. Roman Pavlyuchenko was walking back from an offside position and the suspicion was that Modric was too.
But Enrique, wide left, possibly dreaming, was playing Modric onside. When the diminutive Croat saw no flag, he ran on to the ball as Newcastle defenders stuck up their hands with vague hope. With Given helpless, Modric buried the ball in the bottom corner, his first Spurs league goal. Ironically, Kevin Keegan had tried to sign Modric for Newcastle.
From then on, with Aaron Lennon stretching Newcastle and Modric drifting to effect, Spurs had the greater flow. By comparison Newcastle passed the ball sideways.
Michael Owen did miss a clear 71st-minute chance but at the other end Lennon created an opening for Fraizer Campbell on 85 minutes, and even after Duff's goal Campbell had a second opportunity. He barely got a touch on either occasion.
Goals: N'Zogbia (12) 1-0; Modric (29) 0-1; Suff (90) 2-1.
Newcastle United (4-4-2) Given; Beye, Coloccini, Bassong, Enrique (Duff, 88); Gutierrez, Butt, Guthrie, N'Zogbia; Owen, Ameobi (Viduka, 30). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Edgar, Taylor, Geremi, Carroll.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-1-1) Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora, Bentley; Modric; Pavlyuchenko (Campbell, 65). Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Boateng, Bale, Gunter, Taarbat, O'Hara.
Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).
Booked: Newcastle Enrique, Gutiérrez, Duff; Tottenham Huddlestone.
Man of the match: N'Zogbia.
Attendance: 47,982.Reuse content