PREMIER LEAGUE: Ba hits hat-trick as Newcastle go third with tough win at Stoke
The Magpies were served by a hat-trick from summer signing Demba Ba who netted twice in the first half as the visitors outplayed the Potters before a more difficult second term which saw both sides the recipient of questionable penalty calls.
Newcastle opened the scoring in the 12th minute when a long ball ended in the path of Gabriel Obertan down the right flank and the Frenchman played an inviting ball for Ba who despite being a touch behind the cross, managed to twist his body into a position where he could knock his header past Asmir Begovic against the club he was close to joining in the summer.
The second came five minutes before half-time when a crossed ball from the left found Leon Best at the back post and the Irishman's right footed attempt was scuffed into the path of Ba who was on hand to tuck home from close range for his seventh goal of the season which have all come in his past five outings.
Stoke were making life tough for Newcastle during the second 45 minutes with a constant aerial threat from set pieces but their goal came from a debatable call from referee Mike Dean when Ba clattered into the back of Peter Crouch. There was certainly contact but it appeared to be minimal with Jonathan Walters stepping up and absolutely hammering it down the centre to give Stoke a lifeline in the 75th minute.
But the match was wrapped up ten minutes from time when another soft penalty was awarded when Ryan Taylor's long throw was directed at Best with Stoke's Robert Huth having a little shove in the box. Ba was the man to do the job, sending Asmir Begovic the wrong way to complete his second hat-trick of the season.
Tempers frayed a little late in the piece when Huth crashed into Newcastle keeper Tim Krul and the likes of Ba and Kenwyne Jones were heavily involved but nonetheless, Alan Pardew's men held out for a character-building win which maintains their ten-game unbeaten run and puts them third on table, just a point behind reigning champions Manchester United, as Stoke stay 11th despite winning just one of their last six.
TRIBAL ASKS: Is Demba Ba the most underrated signing of the season so far?
Yellow cards:STO - nil NEW - James Perch 78'