Newcastle United took a huge step towards promotion back to the Premier League as they beat Huddersfield 3-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Matt Ritchie opened the scoring from the penalty spot with Daryl Murphy making it two before half-time.
Aaron Mooy got one back for Huddersfield from a second-half penalty but Newcastle helped off their opponents and substitute Dwight Gayle sealed the win in injury time.
Rafa Benitez made two changes from the side that beat Brighton on Tuesday night, with Vurnon Anita and Daryl Murphy replacing DeAndre Yedlin and Yohan Gouffran.
For Huddersfield, Philip Billing was the only man to retain his place in the starting line-up from the team that lost to Manchester City in the FA cup fifth round replay on Wednesday.
Newcastle took an early lead from the penalty spot after Nakhi Wells was deemed to have fouled Jonjo Shelvey in the area. The ball had bounced around on the outside of the box following a Newcastle corner and fell for Ritchie, who steamed towards goal. Wells was busy appealing for a handball against Shelvey earlier in the move and allowed Ritchie to get on the inside of him, clipping his heels and conceding the penalty. Ritchie stepped up and dispatched the ball down the middle to give the Magpies the lead.
The goal was very much against the run of play and Huddersfield were controlling possession, Billing being urged to shoot by the home fans. He sent a swerving effort at Karl Darlow from 30 yards, which the goalkeeper had to adjust his position to push out for a corner.
Despite Huddersfield’s dominance of possession Newcastle doubled their lead before half-time. A trademark long pass from Shelvey put Murphy in behind the Huddersfield defence. His touch was poor and was smothered by Danny Ward but he only had one hand on the ball, prompting Murphy to stab the ball from the goalkeepers grasp. The Irishman took a touch and played it through the legs of Ward, past Michael Hefele on the front past, to make it 2-0 from an impossible angle.
The Terriers were struggling to make their superior possession count and Benitez’s defence were limiting their opponents to efforts from range, with Mooy, Wells and Chelsea loanee Isaiah Brown all failing to convert long range efforts.
Newcastle’s second-half brief appeared to be conserve the lead, with the midfield duo of Shelvey and Jack Colback providing superb cover for the defence. Wells sent another free kick over the bar but the Magpies looked secure, happy let their opponents have possession, their compact shape making it difficult for the Terriers to achieve any real attacking penetration.
Their period of defensive dominance was halted though, when Shelvey’s push on Kachunga inside the box was deemed a foul by referee Roger East, who pointed to the spot for the second time. Mooy took the penalty and sent Darlow the wrong way, placing his penalty straight into the left-hand corner of the goal.
The Magpies dealt with the pressure superbly after conceding, in what was a solid team performance and sealed the points in second-half stoppage time.
When a fizzing shot from van La Parra was palmed out for a corner by Darlow, the Terriers sent substitute goalkeeper Joel Coleman up to contest it, a decision that was to cost them. Clark smashed his clearance long and the back tracking Coleman came forward to clear, misjudged it, allowing the chasing Gayle to run on, head the ball down and roll it into the empty net to give Newcastle all three points.
Newcastle are now 11 points clear of third place and, barring disaster, seem almost certain to return to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Atsu (Yedlin, 81), Colback (Diame, 72), Shelvey, Ritchie, Diame, Murphy (Gayle, 65)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Gamez, Hanley, Perez
Huddersfield: Ward (Coleman, 45), Smith, Schindler, Hefele, Lowe, Mooy, Billing (Hogg, 65), van La Parra, Brown, Kachunga, Wells
Unused Subs: Hudson, Cranie, Payne, Lolley, Quaner
Referee: Roger East