With the sun caressing the pitch and goals rattling in every few minutes, this might have been a pre-season testimonial, not a match which might have the most enormous repercussions for both sides.
Bobby Robson's grand ambition of giving Tyneside its first trophy since Bobby Moncur lifted the Fairs Cup in 1969 may have run into the sand but fourth place and qualification for the Champions' League would be a grand prize given the relative paucity of his resources. Yesterday's emphatic demolition of an Everton side, which collapsed in a chaotic heap in the final half-hour, opened up a gap of five points over Leeds, who play Manchester United today, and six over Chelsea.
Everton's brief, frenetic revival under David Moyes has been brought to a dramatic finish and although the manager thought that at times his side performed better than in their two victories under him, safety is far from guaranteed.
In the aftermath of defeat in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at Highbury, Robson commented that one day he wanted his team to play like Arsenal. In the last 30 minutes, as a weary, incoherent Everton defence was shredded, it seemed that Jermaine Jenas, Laurent Robert and, especially Kieron Dyer, were not so far removed from Henry, Wiltord and Pires.
Surprisingly, given that he has a greater working knowledge of the English motorway system than most truck drivers, this was one match Sven Goran Eriksson did not attend. If the England coach needed confirmation that Dyer is the most glittering midfielder of his generation, he should ask Newcastle for a video of the match.
This was his second full game since recovering from a stress fracture of the foot and Dyer grew in stature as a surreal match ran its erratic course. The manner in which he outpaced Alessandro Pistone and crossed for Nolberto Solano to clip home his first and Newcastle's fourth was an irresistible moment. Robson, who was a manager when Moncur was parading the Fairs Cup, did, however, keep a sense of perspective. Asked if he had trained any players to compare with Dyer, he replied: "About 300," before reeling off names like Ronaldo and Romario.
Only when they had scored four were the home side safe. In their three matches under Moyes, Everton have begun startlingly before fading in the final third of the game and the pattern was repeated at St James' Park yesterday.
The contest was barely five minutes old when Duncan Ferguson swung out a speculative leg on the edge of the area to send the ball spinning wickedly over Shay Given's head, who succeeded only in palming it into his own net. Rattled and anxious, Newcastle retaliated immediately, aided by some Everton defending which was sometimes horribly lax. A quick, intelligent throw-in from Robert nonplussed every member of their back-four and presented Steve Simonsen, a Sunderland fan from nearby South Shields, with the sight of Alan Shearer bearing down on his goal.
Naturally, the Newcastle captain scored, although there was nothing pre-ordained about his side's second, again created by Robert with a fierce cross, which was turned in spectacularly by Carl Cort, who has struggled to regain his rhythm after a 10-month absence.
However, if Newcastle are to qualify for the Champions' League, Robson acknowledged they will have to tighten up defensively. "I don't know why we play offside," said the Newcastle manager. "We never practise it in training. Tony Adams knows how to play offside but [Nikos] Dabizas doesn't."
The Greek defender was a spectator as Niclas Alexandersson latched on to Ferguson's header, turned Sylvain Distin, and stabbed the ball past Given. Robson told his players at half-time that if they held their nerve they would win 4-2. Instead, they buried Everton in an avalanche. Andy O'Brien bundled over Robert's corner for what Robson called the "kind of goal you might see at Hexham", Dyer created the sublime fourth and then Jenas drew his marker and put Solano through for the fifth.
Still Newcastle pressed and Lomana LuaLua, whose remarkable but often directionless runs have been a feature of his time on Tyneside, finally managed to find his way to the byline, from where he crossed for Olivier Bernard to complete an Easter resurrection.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given 5; Hughes 6, O'Brien 5, Dabizas 4, Distin 4; Solano 8, Dyer 9 (Acuna, 78), Jenas 6, Robert 7 (Bernard 74, 6); Cort 7 (LuaLua 74, 6), Shearer 7. Substitutes not used: Elliott, Harper (gk).
Everton (4-4-2): Simonsen 5; Hibbert 4 (Watson 31, 5), Weir 5, Stubbs 5, Pistone 6 (Blomqvist 74, 5); Alexandersson 6, Gemmill 5, Gravesen 8, Unsworth 6; Radzinski 4 (Chadwick 74, 4), Ferguson 6. Substitutes not used: Moore, Gerrard (gk).
Referee: G Poll (Tring) 7.Reuse content