A HALLOWE’EN derby, and a horrible nightmare for Sunderland ensured it was a dream come true for Newcastle United.
The Black Cats will be haunted by this defeat for years, safe in the knowledge Newcastle will be toasting it for just as long.
It is the time of year for a horror show and Sunderland produced an absolute howler.
They were, to put it bluntly, as abject as Newcastle were superb as Steve Bruce’s men were subjected to 90 minutes of almost unrelenting torture.
So scared stiff did they look by the final whistle , their supporters probably slept with the light on last night. The devil in Newcastle’s season to this point had been their awful home form, but what an exorcism this was.
Four home games in a row without a victory before the arrival of their bitter rivals, but what a way to banish any nagging fears about playing at St James’.
A relegation struggle was predicted before the season had begun, but Chris Hughton has made a mockery of those who used the pre-match build-up to again suggest his job is in jeopardy.
On this evidence Hughton does not need to worry about getting a new contract, he merely has to worry about the terms of the deal.
That deal is due to be discussed in the New Year, but the United board should be looking at getting it done far sooner than that.
There is nothing like a derby win to etch your name into North East football folklore, but this was not just a win it was a thrashing.
A complete humiliation for those who travelled from Wearside crowing about a shift in the balance of power.
The Black Cats who thought they were top dogs turned into meek little mice sent home to lick their gaping wounds.
On this evidence, it is Newcastle who have more to think about in terms of a European challenge. Sunderland were so well beaten, this could be a defeat which takes weeks to recover from.
For Titus Bramble it was a return to St James’ Park he will be desperate to forget.
Not just on the losing side, but sent off in the second half, the sound of 50,000 Geordies screaming their delight as he headed off down the tunnel. Newcastle were dominant from first whistle to last and, while goalscorers Kevin Nolan and Shola Ameobi’s feats screamed to grab headlines, there was not a player in black and white stripes who did not play his part.
For Nolan, already a blue chip player in a Newcastle renaissance, a hat-trick in a Tyne-Wear derby should ensure he never has to buy a drink again on Tyneside.
The former Bolton Wanderers midfielder has understood more than any other what makes Newcastle tick and he was the Magpies’ metronome yesterday.
It was Nolan who broke the deadlock, bringing a halt to a scrappy opening with a touch of class, twisting his body round to hook Mike Williamson’s header over his head and into the back of the net.
It was a blow Sunderland never recovered from and, worryingly for Bruce, they never even hinted they would.
Their tails up, Newcastle went on the rampage, dismantling a Black Cats defence which had not conceded a goal in three games prior to this.
Newcastle were in complete control, but they needed a second goal to inflict proper punishment and again Nolan struck, arriving late into the area to expertly control Andy Carroll’s acrobatic scissor kick and guide the ball past the hapless Simon Mignolet.
When Ameobi made it three in first-half stoppage time, converting from the penalty spot after Nedum Onouha had been lured into tripping the ever dangerous Jonás Gutiérrez in the box, it already looked like a case of damage limitation for the visitors.
Not that they did a very good job of that either.
Without Bramble in the middle of the defence, Sunderland looked even more shaky than they had in the first 45 minutes, a powerful Carroll header crashing against the bar for Ameobi to blast into the back of the net with a half- volley of supreme conviction.
The cake was baked, and it was Nolan again who provided the icing.
Given the size of him, you would think the Newcastle skipper was pretty hard to miss, but Sunderland managed to, the Newcastle number four left completely unmarked to nod in Ameobi’s header back across goal from close range.
Newcastle might have had more, but Sunderland did finally find some fight – although Darren Bent’s consolation in injury time did nothing more than cover up his team’s death throes.
Sunderland have made big improvements under Bruce, but there were no signs of them here.
What will follow will be a massive test for him as a manager and for the players who continue to struggle on the road.
Two away wins in the Premier League in four months is enough to bring any manager out in cold sweats – and unless this weakness is remedied they will always be stuck in mid-table.
Newcastle would gladly accept that as an end-of-season finish, but back-to-to back league wins and a rise up to seventh should allow them to believe so much more is achievable.