Like a man breaking oppressive surface water in coming up for air, Sam Allardyce drank in the welcome feeling of freedom this Newcastle United performance gives him. Draws are not meant to be this liberating but Allardyce offered "relief" as his primary emotion.
Who could blame him? This may be only Newcastle's second point from a possible 18, but breathing space has been found on Tyneside. Pressure can close in again quickly of course, but if Birmingham City, visitors to St James' Park on Saturday afternoon, can be dispatched, then Newcastle and their new manager will consider that they have bottomed out and are on the turn upwards.
Allardyce will not be, as Arsenal fans chanted, "getting sacked in the morning". Instead he, his squad and Newcastle's fanbase will have two days to reflect on where they are and what their very conscious display of unity last night proved.
The club brought back their old DJ to spin records for the faithful and the playing of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" at half-time was part of a show of self-awareness from supporters who were desperate not to be disappointed by either the heart or style of Newcastle against Arsenal.
Falling a goal behind after barely three minutes merely heightened the tension, as well as increasing the scale of the task. When Emmanuel Adebayor rose between David Rozehnal and Habib Beye to batter a sumptuous volley past Shay Given, seen-it-before Newcastle fans will have noted that all three players were signed from France but it was Arsenal who chose Adebayor.
Beye, more than Rozehnal, recovered and contributed to the equaliser from local hero Steven Taylor. That left Allardyce almost rueful about the final score.
"I might have said before the start that a draw would feel like a win but I'm disappointed now," Allardyce said. "It's not often you get Arsenal on the back foot for so long. At the end it was a case of them hanging on."
He then referred to "building a relationship with them [the fans] over a period of time." That remains to be seen but this effort offered hope to both parties. The third party, owner Mike Ashley, will also have found some reassurance. As usual Ashley and Allardyce began the night a couple of seats apart in the directors' box and when Adebayor scored that will have an uncomfortable place to be for each man.
"Mike Ashley and [chairman] Chris Mort have not put me under any pressure and I'm grateful for their support," Allardyce wrote in his programme notes. "But I also know we have to start winning soon."
That pragmatism was matched by Ashley's comment earlier. "There is nothing to the suggestion that it all comes to an end for Sam if we lose to Arsenal," he said. "That's nonsense." The absence of a timeframe beyond Arsenal was recognition of the fragile state that Newcastle were in.
But this result, display, atmosphere, felt like ballast. "The pressure from the stands was so big," Arsne Wenger said admiringly. "Being here today you could feel it was a club in crisis and I anticipated a difficult game. But no matter the difficulties of the club, it was like they had made a union. Everyone fought like mad."
Allardyce will have taken that as a compliment, and he will have approved of the Bolton comparison, too, from Wenger.
"It's a weight lifted of us all," Allardyce said. "If that was 'a crisis' I don't want to see it ever again."Reuse content