Newcastle United captain Kevin Nolan scored a hat-trick as the Magpies eased the pressure on manager Chris Hughton with a 5-1 rout of bitter northeast rivals Sunderland here Sunday.
Nolan's treble and two goals from striker Shola Ameobi sealed a one-sided victory for newly promoted Newcastle as ten-man Sunderland suffered a halloween horror story at St James Park. Darren Bent scored a late consolation goal, but it was far from enough to perk up the few remaining Sunderland fans.
A wretched afternoon for the Black Cats also saw former Newcastle defender Titus Bramble given a straight red card early in the second half for a trip on Andy Carroll, much to the delight of the Toon Army.
The victory saw Newcastle move up to seventh place in the Premier League standings with 14 points from 10 games and should quell intense speculation prior to the game that Hughton faced the sack.
"It was a wonderful team performance with some outstanding individual performances," said Newcastle manager Chris Hughton, who admitted he was grateful for Newcastle supporters who chanted his name throughout the match.
"It means a lot but for me it's not the most important thing," Hughton told Sky Sports. "For me the best thing is to see these players doing well. There's no doubt this group of players want to do it for themselves but they also want to do it for this football club."
Nolan struck in the 26th, 34th and 75th minutes while Ameobi slotted goals in each half to leave Steve Bruce's Sunderland shellshocked. Nolan's first came from a Newcastle corner swung into the box. Ameobi beat Sunderland's defence to knock down, and Nolan, with his back to goal and sitting almost on the turf, hooked in a superbly improvised overhead kick.
Eight minutes later Newcastle doubled their lead through Nolan, the Magpies' skipper suddenly finding himself unmarked and in acres of space after a miscued Joey Barton volley fell kindly in the Sunderland area.
The full-blooded nature of the derby was evident early on, with Newcastle's Cheik Tiote cautioned for an ugly shin-high lunge on Steed Malbranque before Carroll followed him into the book for a challenge on Danny Welbeck. Malbranque was then booked near the half-hour mark for clattering into Barton, with referee Phil Dowd brandishing yellow twice more in the half against Sunderland's Nedum Onuoha and Newcastle's Danny Simpson.
A miserable first half for Onuoha got even worse in time added on for stoppages, when the defender tangled with Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez in the penalty area to leave Dowd no option but to point to the spot. Nolan passed up the opportunity to complete a first-half hat-trick, leaving Ameobi instead to bury an unstoppable penalty into the bottom corner.
Sunderland's best chance early on came when Welbeck raced clear on the counter-attack to stretch the Newcastle defence. But with unmarked strike partner Darren Bent screaming for the ball in the centre of the penalty area, Welbeck chose to go it alone, seeing his shot comfortably blocked by Simpson.
Bramble's dismissal on 53 minutes left Sunderland with no way back and as Newcastle continued to dominate the visiting team's frustration mounted. Phil Bardsley was booked for an unnecessary foul on Fabricio Coloccini, Lee Cattermole also seeing yellow for upending Tiote. In total Sunderland saw six players booked in addition to Bramble's red card.
With Sunderland in total disarray, Ameobi made it 4-0 on 70 minutes, volleying in acrobatically after Carroll's diving header crashed off the bar. All that was left was for Nolan to complete his hat-trick, which he duly did 15 minutes from time, connecting with an Ameobi header from point-blank range.
Bent turned in a goal for Sunderland on the stroke of 90 minutes but it barely qualified as a consolation effort.