Baggies beaten by late Cisse deflectionALBION suffered last-gasp heartbreak after Toon sub Sammy Ameobi's shot deflected off Papiss Cisse and into the net with only seconds remaining at St James' Park.
The Baggies were heading for a well-deserved point after recalled Romelu Lukaku stooped to head home Zoltan Gera’s cross on 55 to cancel out Demba Ba’s 35th-minute opener.
Lukaku’s third goal of the season somewhat spared the striker’s blushes after he missed two great chances in the first 45 minutes.
But after a stirring second-half display, in which Ben Foster was rarely troubled, Albion were denied when Ameobi let fly in the third minute of stoppage time and his effort crept past the helpless keeper thanks to a huge deflection off fellow sub Cisse.
Lukaku, Peter Odemwingie and Zoltan Gera earned recalls as Clarke rang three changes to the side that suffered a stoppage-time reverse against champions Manchester City eight days ago. The men to make way were the injured Claudio Yacob and benched duo Shane Long and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
Alan Pardew made one enforced change from United’s last league game, with James Perch replacing the suspended Cheick Tiote.
Twelfth entertained eighth at St James’ Park, with the two teams separated by four points.
During the pre-match warm-up, Albion’s 18-man squad joined their Newcastle counterparts in showing their support for the Kick It Out campaign by wearing ‘One Game One Community’ t-shirts.
The Baggies, all in red, kicked off towards the Gallowgate End, but it took a while for either team to find any rhythm, with the opening period littered with stoppages.
The first two shots arrived in quick succession on 11, but neither were anything to write home about. Hatem Ben Arfa saw an effort on the edge of the box blocked by Gabriel Tamas and, from the rebound, midfield partner Yohan Cabaye dragged a right-footer harmlessly wide from similar distance.
However, the Toon probably should have been ahead 60 seconds later. Ba ghosted in unmarked onto Shola Ameobi’s cross at the back post – but his stooping header flashed wide of the near post.
United were starting to peg Albion back but the ever-dependable Jonas Olsson helped to repel a couple of attacks by winning titanic aerial duels with Ba.
Foster was called on to make his first save of the game on 20 when he pushed away Davide Santon’s awkward 30-yard strike, which bounced awkwardly in front of him. From Cabaye’s ensuing corner, Ameobi headed powerfully at Foster from 12 yards.
However, somewhat against the run of play, it was Albion who created the best chance of the game thus far on 25. After Ameobi failed to make proper contact with an opportunity from a Newcastle corner, Graham Dorrans spearheaded a terrific counter-attack. The Scot slipped Lukaku in one-on-one with Tim Krul but the Toon No.1 won the duel, brilliantly pushing wide the on-loan Chelsea man’s 15-yard shot.
Moments later, Gera curled an inviting free-kick over from 20 yards.
Newcastle were soon back on the attack, though, and after a terrific left-wing run from Ben Arfa, who skipped past three Albion players, Ameobi incensed the home crowd by wildly hacking at the Frenchman’s low cross on the edge of the area.
However, the long-serving United striker made amends on 35 as the hosts surged in front. Ameobi outjumped Olsson to flick on Krul’s long punt upfield. Gareth McAuley beat Ba to the second ball but his header hung in the air and the Newcastle striker was first to react, volleying past the helpless Foster from 15 yards.
Lukaku had a great chance to level just five minutes later. Youssouf Mulumbu won possession inside his own half before exchanging a one-two with Zoltan Gera and slipping Lukaku clean through. The Belgian international was in an identical position to his earlier opportunity and the result was the same, with Krul blocking his left-footed shot.
Two minutes before the break, the busy Dorrans fed Odemwingie who shot powerfully into the side-netting from 20 yards.
Newcastle had certainly enjoyed the territorial advantage during the opening 45 but the Baggies – and Lukaku in particular – headed down the tunnel ruing two wasted gilt-edged opportunities.
Lukaku thought he had made amends just three minutes after the break when he diverted Mulumbu’s weak shot from just inside the box past Krul – but his effort was correctly ruled out for offside.
However, Albion had started the second period positively and got their reward on 55. And it was that man Lukaku who restored parity. The powerhouse striker headed down Mulumbu’s diagonal ball to Gera before racing into the box and nodding the Hungarian international’s perfectly-weighted cross past Krul from six yards.
Now it was Albion, who were playing some silky stuff, keeping United pegged back. And Clarke attempted to give his forward threat even greater impetus by replacing Lukaku with Long on 65.
The game was very much on a knife’s edge, though, with both teams setting out their stall to grab a winner.
Albion were the next to threaten when, on 74, sub Markus Rosenberg had a low shot from just inside the box blocked by Fabricio Coloccini after good work by Mulumbu.
Moments later, McAuley flashed a header just wide from Gera’s corner.
On 78, Long went close when his close-range stab from Odemwingie’s low centre flew straight at Krul.
The Baggies were really going for it and Rosenberg came within inches of connecting with Tamas’ low cross in front of goal.
At the other end, Ben Arfa tried his luck from 20 yards in the 90th minute before failed to trouble Foster’s goal.
It was Albion who did all the pressing in the dying minutes – yet they headed home empty handed.
Sub Sammy Ameobi let fly from 25 yards, with Cisse's back on hand to guide the ball past the wrong-footed Foster.
NEWCASTLE (4-4-2): Krul; Simpson (Cisse 61), Williamson, Coloccini, Santon; Ben Arfa, Perch, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Shola Ameobi (Obertan 61), Ba (Sammy Ameobi 73). Subs not used: Harper (gk), Ferguson, Taylor, Anita.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Foster; Tamas, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Morrison; Odemwingie, Gera (Popov 88), Dorrans (Rosenberg 71); Lukaku (Long 65). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk); Fortune, El Ghanassy, Jara Reyes.
GOALS: NEWCASTLE – Ba (35), Cisse (90+3). ALBION – Lukaku (55).
BOOKINGS: NEWCASTLE – Perch (foul 44), Cabaye (foul 68), Gutierrez (foul 77). ALBION – Mulumbu (foul 50), Ridgewell (foul 52).
REFEREE: C Foy (Merseyside)
ATTENDANCE: 49,731 (1,400 Albion fans).
ALBION STARMAN: Zoltan Gera.