NEWCASTLE (Reuters) - Newcastle United hung on for a valuable 3-2 victory over Southampton despite finishing a rip-roaring Premier League contest with nine men at St James' Park on Saturday.
Southampton, hammered 9-0 at Manchester United in midweek, fell 2-0 behind after 25 minutes with Joe Willock netting on his Newcastle debut and Miguel Almiron scoring via a large deflection off Jan Bednarek.
Takumi Minamino, also on his debut, replied for Southampton with a superb finish, but just before halftime the visitors self-destructed in defence again to allow Almiron to score and send the hosts in with a 3-1 lead.
A sensational free kick by James Ward-Prowse three minutes into the second half gave Southampton impetus, and Newcastle went down to 10 men when Jeff Hendrick was sent off.
As the sleet came down, Newcastle were reduced to nine men when defender Fabian Schar was carried off on a stretcher after a clash of legs with Bednarek with the hosts having already used up all their substitutions.
But Steve Bruce's dogged side hung on to give themselves a healthy buffer above the relegation zone. They have 25 points from 23 games, with Southampton on 29 from 22 after five league defeats in a row. The almost non-stop football since the New Year has left some viewers, and players, jaded but this contest had everything -- great goals, howlers, last-ditch defending, red cards and a sodden St James' Park pitch.
Not that that was any consolation to Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl whose side are in freefall having briefly topped the table earlier in the season. "The way we conceded the goals were far too easy and not the way to defend in the Premier League," the Austrian said. "Tough to come back after that, scored twice and tried but when you defend like this it is hard to get points." Poland's Bednarek sums up Southampton's defensive woes.
He scored an own goal, conceded a penalty and was sent off at Manchester United -- a Premier League first -- and he suffered a horrible opening 45 minutes in Newcastle. In the 16th minute he failed to cut out a long ball, allowing Allan Saint-Maximin to feed a pass to Arsenal loanee Willock who converted with ease.
Worse was to come for Bednarek. Saint-Maximin was causing problems for Saints and he cut the ball back for Almiron whose driven cross should have been easily dealt with by Bednarek but he got his feet tangled up and only managed to divert the ball past his keeper Alex McCarthy. Minamino, on loan from Liverpool, then scored a superb goal for the visitors, taking Ryan Bertrand's pass and smashing a shot past Karl Darlow.
Southampton hunted an equaliser but just before halftime a poor pass out by McCarthy put Bertrand under pressure and Almiron stole the ball to fire past the retreating keeper.
Ward Prowse is one of the most dangerous dead ball specialists in the Premier League and he showed why in the 48th minute when he gave Darlow no chance with a 35-metre curler.
Hendrick then got himself a needless second yellow card for pulling back Minamino and when Schar suffered a nasty-looking injury with 20 minutes left, Newcastle were reeling.
But they showed great fortitude and the closest Southampton came to an equaliser was when Danny Ings saw his first-time effort cannon off the post and straight into Darlow's arms.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge)