By Damian Spellman, PA
Miguel Almiron came off the bench to re-ignite Newcastle’s charge for Europe as he snatched a hard-fought Premier League victory over Wolves.
The Paraguay international’s 79th-minute strike clinched a 2-1 win, but only after the visitors had dragged themselves back into a full-blooded encounter when substitute Hwang Hee-chan had cancelled out Alexander Isak’s first-half opener on an eventful afternoon at St James’ Park.
Julen Lopetegui’s men were convinced Magpies keeper Nick Pope should have picked up a second red card in three games after a clumsy first-half challenge on Raul Jimenez before Almiron’s 11th goal of the season rubbed salt into the wound.
It was just a second win in nine league outings for Newcastle, who ended a run of five games without a victory in all competitions to climb above Liverpool into fifth place.
Wolves, who gradually worked their way into the game as Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves made their presence felt, saw concerted appeals for a 20th-minute penalty and perhaps more waved away after Pope miscontrolled Sven Botman’s back-pass and collided with Jimenez as he attempted to recover.
The striker was bundled to the ground in the process, but referee Andy Madley was unmoved and VAR official Tony Harrington saw no reason to ask him to look again.
Wolves’ disappointment increased within six minutes when, after Fabian Schar had been fouled by Jimenez, Kieran Trippier curled the resulting free-kick on to Isak’s head and he dispatched it past Jose Sa with a deft flick.
Only a desperate lunge by Craig Dawson prevented Joe Willock from doubling the lead two minutes later following Isak’s determined run and, after Jimenez had warmed Pope’s hands with an attempt from distance, Max Kilman had to be equally resilient to deny Isak once again.
Willock, Isak and Saint-Maximin all saw shots blocked in quick succession and Bruno Guimaraes headed against the bar from Dan Burn’s pull-back as the Magpies laid siege to Sa’s goal, although Pope was grateful to see Daniel Podence’s 39th-minute strike come back off the foot of his right post six minutes before the break.
Sa had to save from Willock at his near post after Schar’s challenge on Podence had sparked a pacy counter-attack, but Pope did superbly to claw Neto’s strike from under his crossbar after Moutinho had cleverly rolled a 58th-minute free-kick into his path.
Tripper was denied by the Wolves keeper seconds later and Neves skied an effort high over as the game continued at break-neck speed, and Pope had to intervene to keep out Moutinho’s 64th-minute shot.
The England full-back’s afternoon took a turn for the worse with 20 minutes remaining when he slipped as he attempted to clear inside his own penalty area and, with Pope having left his line in an attempt to snuff out the danger, presented the ball to Hwang to slide into the empty net.
But Almiron got the Magpies out of jail with 11 minutes remaining when he exchanged passes with Willock before curling a shot across Sa and into the net with the help of a touch off Kilman.