Four points adrift of the top six at the final whistle, yet only six points clear of the relegation places. Newcastle and Everton are two teams who still don't know what the final weeks of the season will bring them. Both epitomise the inconsistency of so many Premier League teams, which explains why a remarkably high number are still eyeing the Europa League after any win – and worrying about the Championship in the wake of any defeat.
Everton are particularly unpredictable, their feeble FA Cup surrender against Reading followed by this gutsy performance after they went behind to a Leon Best goal.
Leon Osman equalised and Phil Jagielka, whose committed defending typified their approach, added the winner, with all the goals coming in the first half.
For Jagielka, it was a performance that revived memories of previous seasons when Everton consistently defied the odds: "The main emotion is frustration. It has been a long season for the manager and players, from the heights of winning derby games to the lows of the FA Cup. It has been such an up and down season, not only for the players and fans, but also the manager.
"In midweek, if we didn't have badges on our shirts you wouldn't have known it was an Everton team."
Deprived of influential figures Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill because of injuries, Everton relied on Mikel Arteta stepping up to banish bad memories of St James' Park. Seriously injured here two seasons ago, Arteta surprised Newcastle by slotting into a role on the left side of midfield and troubling makeshift right-back Steve Taylor throughout.
It was reminiscent of the make-do-and-mend approach that saw Everton enjoy their best season under David Moyes when Fellaini and Cahill played unfamiliar roles as strikers.
"We had that same resilience," Jagielka said. "I think the gaffer is going to go for a squad of 12 next year, back to the old days. We had no strikers a couple of years ago, and Fellaini and Cahill played up there, so you can't put your finger on why it works for us."
The win should have been even more emphatic, but Louis Saha, Victor Anichebe and Seamus Coleman all wasted decent late opportunities to extend Everton's lead as their opponents vainly pressed for an equaliser.
Scorers: Newcastle Best 23. Everton Osman 31, Jagielka 36.
Subs: Newcastle Ameobi 7 (Enrique, 43), Ferguson 5 (S Taylor, 65), Kuqi (Best, 85) Everton Heitinga 6 (Neville, 52), Anichebe 5 (Beckford, 69), Coleman (Osman, 85)
Booked: Newcastle S Taylor, Nolan. Everton Hibbert, Baines, Heitinga, Anichebe.
Man of the match Arteta. Match rating 7/10.
Possession Newcastle 60% Everton 40%.
Attempts on target Newcastle 8 Everton 8.
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire). Att 50,128.Reuse content