Ryan Taylor wrote his name into Geordie folklore by firing Newcastle to derby victory at Sunderland. The full-back, who played for Steve Bruce at Wigan, curled home a superb 62nd-minute free-kick to win a hard-fought contest which the home side dominated for long periods, but failed to take their chances.
Alan Pardew's men, who were denied at the death at the Stadium of Light last season by Asamoah Gyan's last-gasp equaliser, might have won more comfortably had they been awarded a clear first-half penalty. Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet had to make good saves from Yohan Cabaye and Jonas Gutierrez, while Tim Krul had to be similarly alert to keep out two Stephane Sessegnon efforts.
However, the home side simply did not make the most of their share of the possession and the bulk of a sell-out crowd of 47,751 left in sombre mood. Bruce is yet to taste derby victory in three attempts and Sunderland have now won just once on home soil against their neighbours in 31 years. But there was unbridled joy for Newcastle, who triumphed without a specialist left-back and against the backdrop of seemingly continuous turmoil off the pitch.
Joey Barton spent the opening weekend of the season in the headlines for the wrong reasons, although the controversy was not all of his own doing, and he found himself in the thick of the action once again within 14 minutes of a pulsating derby, although innocently so on this occasion. Having weathered an early storm which saw them pinned deep inside their own half for long periods, the Magpies won a left-wing corner which Cabaye delivered to the far post.
Shola Ameobi, who went into the game with six derby goals to his name, met the ball with a firm header which Barton helped on towards the top corner. But as he prepared to celebrate, Sebastian Larsson threw out an arm and blocked the ball, sparking a mass protest from the men in black and white. Having enjoyed a major slice of fortune the Black Cats resumed their efforts to atone for their derby no-shows last season.
Benin international Sessegnon was proving a thorn in Newcastle's side and having failed to hit the target on a couple of occasions, forced a fingertip save from Krul with nine minutes gone and a second diving stop eight minutes before the break. Sunderland were dominating possession and Sessegnon, Jack Colback and Ahmed Elmohamady were seeing plenty of the ball in promising positions.
However, too often the final pass was wayward to allow the visitors off the hook as they defended in committed fashion, but often at full-stretch. Newcastle continued to look dangerous from set-pieces and Mignolet had to pull off a fine 32nd-minute save to keep out Cabaye's swerving, dipping shot from distance. Cabaye, Wes Brown and Ryan Taylor were all booked for rash challenges in a fiercely-contested first half, but there was drama deep into injury time when Gyan turned neatly and curled a left-foot shot on to the top of the crossbar.
In a nondescript start to the second half, neither side was able to build up any kind of momentum with Sunderland hunting down the Magpies in possession and the visitors largely adopting a hit and hope policy as they attempted to move the ball forward. Barton worked his way into a good position with 55 minutes gone, but saw his shot charged down by Anton Ferdinand, and Mignolet had to get down well to palm away Jonas Gutierrez's effort six minutes later.
But Newcastle did take the lead within seconds after Gutierrez had been tripped by Lee Cattermole. Ryan Taylor curled the resulting free-kick high over the stranded Mignolet and into the top corner to spark delirious celebrations on and off the pitch.
Bruce introduced Craig Gardner and Ji Dong-won for Elmohamady and Kieran Richardson with 19 minutes remaining and time fast running out. But Sunderland's efforts were looking increasingly laboured with Gyan scuffing a 77th-minute shot wide from close range and Gardner looping a header into Krul's arms three minutes later. Phil Bardsley was sent off for a second bookable offence in the final minute of normal time to cap a miserable afternoon for his side.