Newcastle took a huge step towards Premier League survival as Chris Wood’s penalty proved enough to beat a blunt Wolves side at St James’ Park.
The January signing slammed home the second-half winner at the Gallowgate End after being fouled by Wolves keeper Jose Sa at the end of a flowing team move.
VAR checked if Sa had made adequate contact, after an earlier review had denied Wood in the first half, when he saw a goal chalked off because team-mate Bruno Guimaraes was narrowly offside in the build-up.
Wolves failed to touch the ball in the Newcastle area in a dire opening half and manager Bruno Lage will wonder why it took until the 80th minute for his side to work home keeper Martin Dubravka when Fabio Silva forced a diving save.
Newcastle – who saw Allan Saint-Maximin fire over the bar before Wood’s goal and Guimaraes go close to adding a second – thoroughly deserved to end a run of three straight defeats with this win.
It moves them 10 points clear of the relegation zone – though 18th-placed Burnley have two games in hand – while Wolves stay eighth and lose crucial ground in their push for a Europa League spot.
“It has put us in a stronger position but I still think we have work to do,” boss Eddie Howe told BBC Sport. “The home games are key for us but we want to pick up points wherever we go.
“At this stage of the season, it is about results. We are well aware we need to continue to get points. I think it’s results over performances at the moment. There will be a time when we can evolve.”
Howe had reason to be ecstatic, having taken over a side who were 19th in the table and five points from safety in November.
The Newcastle boss has a quote which reads “make each day your masterpiece” on a wall in his office. This display was by no means joyful or pretty in its crafting, but it was one where Newcastle were always the likelier winners thanks to their consistent effort and sporadic quality across the 90 minutes.
Wolves were fortunate when VAR chalked off Wood’s close-range finish in the first half. Guimaraes raced on to a superb flick by substitute Miguel Almiron – on for the injured Ryan Fraser – and was fractionally offside.
In the aftermath, Wolves captain Conor Coady could be seen screaming at team-mates in a bid to rise some kind of energy and application.
It never really arrived and, gradually, the home side started to create half-chances after the break until Saint-Maximin and Joelinton combined to send Wood clear in the game’s key moment.