Alan Shearer has been given eight games to save Newcastle from relegation after the Premier League strugglers confirmed his appointment as manager until the end of the season.
The former Newcastle striker will become the north-east side's fourth manager of the season as he bids to save his home town club from the drop.
Shearer, 38, a hero to the Magpies' fans for his exploits on the pitch, had long been tipped as a future manager but he could never have envisaged taking over in such difficult circumstances. Newcastle are currently third from bottom of the Premier League, two points adrift of Blackburn, the club currently occupying the last survival spot.
Despite having no coaching experience, Shearer has been given the task of saving the club from the financially calamitous consequences of relegation and Chelsea's visit on Saturday means he will have a tough start to his reign. His appointment comes after Joe Kinnear was forced to take a break from managing the club after undergoing heart surgery.
"Newcastle United can confirm that Alan Shearer will return to the club as manager for the final eight games of the season," said a statement issued by the club, adding that the Magpies' record goalscorer would take charge with immediate effect.
Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias said: "Everyone at Newcastle United is absolutely delighted that Alan has taken on this challenge. Already there is a buzz around the club and the city. The news has given everyone a massive boost."
Shearer will be assisted by Iain Dowie, who has managed several sides in his own right. Dowie was a team-mate of the ex-England striker at Southampton, the club where Shearer begin his professional career.
Chris Hughton, who has been in caretaker charge in Kinnear's absence, remains on the staff. Shearer's appointment was confirmed by Newcastle soon after they had announced that executive director Dennis Wise had left the club. Shearer is due to take his first training session on Thursday before holding a news conference at St James' Park.
Newcastle turned to Shearer as it became clear that, under Hughton, the club was drifting towards disaster after a run of just one win in their last 12 league matches. Hughton took charge in February after Kinnear, who only appointed as an interim boss following the departure of Keegan, underwent a heart bypass.
Kinnear has been unable to return to work and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley decided he had to act to stop the rot. That meant sending out an SOS to Shearer, despite the fact that Ashley has passed on previous opportunities to install the club's greatest ever goalscorer in the manager's office.
Shearer, who has mostly worked as a television pundit since hanging up his boots three years ago, had made it clear he wanted the job in January 2008, when Sam Allardyce was sacked. He had also signalled that, subject to certain conditions, he would be prepared to take over when the second spell as manager of Keegan, like Shearer a former Newcastle striker revered by the fans, ended.
Despite reservations in some quarters about Shearer's lack of coaching experience, news of his appointment was greeted with delight by the vast majority of Newcastle supporters.
Sir John Hall, the former chairman responsible for bringing Shearer to Newcastle in his playing days, said he should be appointed on a long-term basis.
"I would have preferred him to come back as long-term manager because I've always felt he was the only man at this moment in time who could manage Newcastle," said Hall.
Former Newcastle and England winger Chris Waddle warned: "Management's not like playing and Alan will find that out. It didn't work for Kevin for whatever reason but if Alan can keep them up that'll be enough for the fans."