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Newcastle 1 Chelsea 0: Joe Willock stunner piles pressure on Graham Potter as Toon’s top four charge continues

IT sounds bloody bonkers but Newcastle are officially in the title race.

Back up to third, two points behind Manchester City and a whopping NINE above rotten Chelsea.

Willock fired Newcastle into the lead with 23 minutes to play
The midfielder’s decisive goal sent Newcastle back to third
Chelsea have not won a domestic game since October 16

The Geordies haven’t lifted the title since 1927 – but it’s becoming increasingly impossible to rule them out as contenders.

The Prem big boys feared the Saudi revolution on Tyneside yet comforted themselves by assuming it would take a few years before they hammered on the door.

Well, after five wins on the bounce for the first time in eight years, they’re scaring the life out of the established order.

Chelsea, for so long part of that elite, were awful…again.

Joe Willock’s 67th-minute stunner settled it, but Newcastle were head and shoulders above the Blues from start to finish.

Toothless in attack, they set up like an underdog hoping for smash and grab.

The bookies had rampant Newcastle as clear favourites beforehand, and so it proved.

Graham Potter’s side are now winless in five – something not achieved since 10 years ago.

And it was in 2015, when Jose Mourinho’s second stint turned sour, when they last lost three straight Prem games.

Eight points off the Champions League spots heading into the World Cup break, Potter has a mountain to climb just two months into the job.

Fresh off his England call-up, Newcastle No 9 Callum Wilson was a sub at the expense of Chris Wood having been under the weather all week.

Migraines did for Raheem Sterling, who was left back in London.

Graham Potter tinkered with his side again in search of a magic formula, benching Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Kai Havertz, Marc Cucurella and Thiago Silva after losing to Arsenal while handing teen Lewis Hall a first Prem start.

Hall was handed his first Premier League start
Broja was also in the starting line-up

A handful of Mags supporters were outside St James’ Park beforehand protesting against the club’s Saudi Arabian owners.

Yet step inside the Cathedral on the Hill, with a Christmas top four spot guaranteed, and you won’t find a single dissenter about where the cash comes from.

There were ‘Fly Saudia’ adverts on the billboards around the pitch for the first time while one of the matchday sponsors was ‘Saudi Business Links – Your Gateway to Arabia’.

The Blues were rocked just seven minutes in when Potter was forced to bring on Silva for the crocked Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

And the west Londoners couldn’t cope with Toon’s relentless press early on.

Wherever they turned, Magpies swarmed.

Pinned in, red-hot Newcastle winger Miguel Almiron lashed the first opening over on the volley.

It was an engaging first half if you love a midfield scrap. If not, it was an opening 45 minutes to forget.

Chelsea’s best move brought about the only shot on target, but the build-up started by Jorginho breaking the lines deserved better than Armano Broja’s weak shot on the turn.

Potter hooked Cesar Azpilicueta for Christian Pulisic at half-time but Newcastle were straight back on top – but still without a cutting edge.

Sean Longstaff was thwarted by Edouard Mendy at the back post following Joelinton’s knock down.

Seconds later and the midfielder had an even better chance to break the deadlock after being teed up by Miguel Almiron’s cute cross, only to sweep a huge chance over from close range.

The fired up Gallowgate end sensed the opener, with Joe Willock then missing Chris Wood by inches with a wicked low ball across goal.

The assault was relentless and Chelsea were clinging on for dear life.

Twenty minutes into the second half and they finally produced something going forward, even if it was from Bruno Guimaraes giving the ball away at the top of his box.

Conor Gallagher was the beneficiary but Nick Pope leapt to his left brilliantly to deny his goalbound curler.

And what a moment that proved, with Toon going up the other end and taking the lead two minutes later.

Joelinton played over the top down the right and Almiron got there before Kalidou Koulibaly and darted inside.

Newcastle remain in the top three

The Paraguayan had bagged seven in seven before this and it looked to be opening up to unleash another one of his deadly left foot.

But just as he was about to let fly, Willock took over and thumped a first-time piledriver beyond Mendy from 20 yards.

The midfielder hadn’t scored since February but it’s now two in two following last week’s strike at Southampton.

St James’ erupted and the Geordies sang songs about winning the league.

Forced to try and actually do something, Chelsea pushed on as the clock ran down but Newcastle’s formidable defence held on with ease.

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