Match ends, Newcastle United 3, Sheffield United 0.
Steve Bruce remains unconvinced that his Newcastle side have secured their Premier League status despite an emphatic victory over Sheffield United which moved them 11 points clear of the relegation zone.
The Magpies have 38 points with eight games remaining, and a win over struggling Aston Villa on Wednesday would all but secure safety.
Manager Bruce told BBC Radio 5 Live: "We can't take anything for granted because you never know. The points return with eight games to go... I can't be more pleased.
"If somebody said with eight games to go that we're two points behind Arsenal, I wouldn't quite believe it."
It was a great day for Bruce and his striker Joelinton, who scored only his second Premier League goal, and his first since 25 August.
The relief on the Brazilian striker's face was apparent when he tapped in Newcastle's third, and although there were no fans inside St James' Park to celebrate with, no doubt many were screaming with delight as the £40m striker ended his terrible run in front of goal.
That was the icing on a sweet Magpies cake. Despite playing their first match since the Premier League restarted, they looked far fresher than their opponents who produced one of their worst defensive displays of the season, capped by the red card shown to John Egan five minutes after the break.
It means Chris Wilder's side, who drew against Villa on Wednesday, have taken only one point from two games. Next up for them is Manchester United - a crucial match in the race for a top-four spot.
As for Newcastle, Allan Saint-Maximin sent them on their way when he fired home at the far post after Enda Stevens inexplicably allowed Matt Ritchie's low ball to go between his legs. Ritchie then added a second with a thunderous strike from the edge of the area.
Then came Joelinton's strike from close range after Miguel Almiron delivered a pinpoint low ball to his feet.
Bruce makes his case again
Steve Bruce has somehow remained gracious ever since he took his dream job last summer. As an ex-Sunderland manager who followed former fans' darling Rafael Benitez, he was already in the red when he arrived.
His team selections, particularly the reluctance to drop Joelinton, further frustrated the supporters and now the possibility of new, moneyed owners from Saudi Arabia has cast further doubt on the future of the manager.
But time and again Bruce has confounded his critics this season with wins over Tottenham, Manchester United, Chelsea and now this double over the Blades.
His side produced a disciplined display with plenty of verve provided by Saint-Maximin, Almiron and Ritchie.
Saint-Maximin, in particular, was exceptional. The £20m outlay last summer now seems a snip for the 23-year-old who embarrassed the visiting defence with his trickery and pace, before he got his reward in the 55th minute.
Ritchie added the second 14 minutes later with the goal of the game - a fierce drive which was too hot to handle for Dean Henderson.
And with 12 minutes remaining, Joelinton, who had missed an easy chance in the first half, scored his second league goal for the club - 2,130 minutes and 39 shots after scoring the first.
Blades lose sharpness at St James'
Wilder's post-match talk to his team might not be repeatable. His side's success this season has been built on unwavering discipline and a miserly defence - the second best in the league before Sunday - but neither were evident here.
There were suggestions something was not right early in the match when midfielder Oliver Norwood lost possession far too easily on a couple of occasions before Egan got caught up in an unnecessary altercation with Joelinton which earned him a yellow card.
That became two yellows for the Irishman in the 50th minute when he got on the wrong side of the striker, who he pulled back as Joelinton tried to run in on goal. Referee David Coote was given an easy decision.
If Wilder had his face in his hands then, worse was to follow. For Newcastle's first, the usually dependable Stevens got his legs in a muddle as he tried to stop Ritchie's ball from finding Saint-Maximin and for the second, right-back George Baldock's reluctance to close down Ritchie gave the Scot room to shoot.
Man of the match - Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle)
Wilder unhappy with Egan booking - reaction
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder speaking to BBC Match of the Day about the first caution for Egan: "Steve Bruce is a competitor and I'm a competitor - we wouldn't have backed away from that. That yellow then puts John in a difficult position.
"We then allowed a poor mistake for them to go 1-0 up. We had to then chase and open up, and they punished us.
"People will look at the goals conceded today and will ask how we managed the amount of clean sheets this season and to be defensively tight.
"We all need to sharpen up and tighten up. If we don't, it'll be a long five weeks. We've got a huge game on Wednesday night. We just want the overall performance to be better than what it is."
Heaviest defeat for Blades since 2018 - the stats
- Newcastle are now unbeaten in four Premier League games on home soil without conceding a goal (W2 D2) - the Magpies have kept four straight clean sheets in the top flight at St James' Park for the first time since April 2012.
- After losing none of their first nine Premier League away games this season (W3 D6), Sheffield United have since suffered three defeats in their last six on the road (W1 D2), failing to score on four occasions during this run.
- Wilder and Sheffield United have suffered their heaviest league defeat together since a 3-0 loss at Middlesbrough in August 2018, shipping more than two goals on the road for the first time in the Premier League this season.
- There were 264 seconds between John Egan's sending-off and Allan Saint-Maximin scoring the opener. It was the second red card of Egan's English league career, with his only previous dismissal coming against Millwall in April 2019.
- After scoring with only one of his first 30 Premier League shots, Saint-Maximin has now netted with each of his last two attempts (also v Southampton back in March). Only Jonjo Shelvey (five) has netted more times for Newcastle in the top flight this season than the French winger (three).
- With his first goal involvements of 2019-20, Matt Ritchie has both scored and assisted in a Premier League game for the first time, with the Scotland winger's strike his first home league goal since January 2019 (v Manchester City).
Newcastle host Aston Villa on Wednesday while Sheffield United are at Manchester United on the same day (both at 18:00 BST).
- 6LascellesBooked at 70mins
- 11RitchieSubstituted forYedlinat 90+2'minutes
- 8ShelveySubstituted forSchärat 85'minutes
- 10Saint-MaximinSubstituted forBentalebat 79'minutes
- 24AlmirónSubstituted forLazaroat 85'minutes
- 9JoelintonBooked at 31minsSubstituted forCarrollat 79'minutes
- 12EganBooked at 50mins
- 32BergeSubstituted forLundstramat 66'minutes
- 4FleckSubstituted forFreemanat 73'minutes
- 9McBurnieSubstituted forFreemanat 85'minutes
- 10SharpSubstituted forZivkovicat 74'minutes
- David Coote
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Newcastle United 3, Sheffield United 0.
Jack Robinson (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Nabil Bentaleb (Newcastle United).
Substitution, Newcastle United. DeAndre Yedlin replaces Matt Ritchie.
Foul by Kieron Freeman (Sheffield United).
Federico Fernández (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Luke Freeman (Sheffield United) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Chris Basham.
Chris Basham (Sheffield United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Andy Carroll (Newcastle United).
Substitution, Newcastle United. Valentino Lazaro replaces Miguel Almirón.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Fabian Schär replaces Jonjo Shelvey.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Kieron Freeman replaces Oliver McBurnie.
Foul by Richairo Zivkovic (Sheffield United).
Federico Fernández (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Nabil Bentaleb replaces Allan Saint-Maximin.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Andy Carroll replaces Joelinton.
Goal! Newcastle United 3, Sheffield United 0. Joelinton (Newcastle United) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Miguel Almirón.
Attempt saved. Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Miguel Almirón.
Substitution, Sheffield United. Richairo Zivkovic replaces Billy Sharp.