Adam Johnson, the England winger who has yet to convince club manager Roberto Mancini he is worthy of a starting place at Manchester City, came off the bench to have the final say in his team's absorbing 2-1 Premier League win over Newcastle United at Eastlands today.
Johnson scored within three minutes of his appearance as a 72nd minute substitute. He collected a pass from James Milner and cut between two defenders into the Newcastle area before placing a brilliant left-foot shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal as City maintained their title charge.
City had gone ahead through Carlos Tevez's penalty before Newcastle's Jonas Gutierrez equalised. But the visitors are likely to remember this match for an appalling early injury to their on-loan midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa.
A controversial encounter needed just four minutes to provide the first contentious moment when Ben Arfa was left with a suspected broken left leg after a strong challenge from City midfielder Nigel de Jong. The Dutch international slid in on the soaking surface with a tackle that referee Martin Atkinson judged fair but which seemed to divide opinion as to its legality.
Whatever the intent on de Jong's part, television broadcasters deemed the pictures of Ben Arfa's injury too graphic to screen. To make matters worse for Newcastle, they soon found themselves on the wrong side of a harsh penalty award. Tevez was racing clear on goal, ahead of Mike Williamson, when the Newcastle centre-half slid and appeared to win the ball with a side-on tackle.
However, referee Atkinson was well placed to make a decision and immediately pointed to the spot, allowing Tevez to convert the spot kick, his fifth goal in seven games this season and the 28th in his 39 league games for City to date.
Newcastle's response was swift with defender Fabricio Coloccini's volley forcing England goalkeeper Joe Hart into an excellent save. It was a warning City failed to heed and, after 23 minutes, they surrendered their lead to the impressive Gutierrez. The Argentinian winger started the move with a neat piece of skill on the left and a cross which Vincent Kompany failed to clear adequately.
Gutierrez responded quickly, far more quickly than his marker Kolo Toure, and collected the loose ball which he placed past Hart, via the underside of the cross-bar, with an emphatic finish. Even when Coloccini added to their problems by limping off to be replaced by Sol Campbell, Newcastle were enjoying a purple period in terms of possession.
The second half began in similarly open fashion. Gareth Barry was required to make a telling tackle on Shola Ameobi and Wayne Routledge almost managed to connect on the end of a Gutierrez cross while, at the other end, Tim Krul did well to keep out a fierce shot from Tevez, set up well by Yaya Toure.
City continued to threaten, with Tevez, David Silva and Emmanuel Adebayor sparking a furious goalmouth melee which Newcastle somehow cleared, and, after Johnson's winner, City were by far the more likely to score again - Johnson himself testing Krul with a strong near-post strike.
However, Newcastle had an apparently perfectly valid penalty appeal rejected, after Joleon Lescott tripped Ameobi, and substitute Andy Carroll might have equalised as he met Joey Barton's corner with a header that flew just over.