Midway through the first half Yohan Cabaye tugged his gloves off and hurled them towards the touchline. It seemed symbolic of the France midfielder's struggles as he and his Newcastle United team-mates became increasingly ensnared in Stoke City's clever tactical trap.
Shortly afterwards Mark Hughes's side took the lead but then some of the luck which deserted Alan Pardew's side for much of 2013 returned. Stoke's Glenn Whelan was sent off for a very silly second yellow card, Hughes found himself banished from the dug-out for protesting – lobbing his managerial anorak over the dug-out roof in disgust en route – and Marc Wilson was also dismissed after conceding a penalty.
Suddenly there was only one team in it as a renascent Newcastle enhanced their thoroughly refreshing, if unlikely, Champions League challenge. "It was a funny afternoon," said Pardew whose side have won seven and drawn one of their last nine Premier League games. "It wasn't quite working out for us and Stoke had a good foothold. We couldn't get any rhythm but then the game turned on its head and our incredible run continued."
His early foreboding was fully justified. With Stephen Ireland resting on the bench Charlie Adam eagerly accepted the mantle of Stoke's creator in chief. Deployed in an attacking central midfield role behind Peter Crouch, Adam excelled, giving Newcastle quite a few early frights with his incisive through-passes and well-timed late runs into the penalty area.
Ousama Assaidi gave Stoke the lead when he cut inside from the left, dodged Mathieu Debuchy and sent a wonderfully weighted shot curving into the top corner.
Hughes's smile was not destined to linger. When his side were reduced to 10 men following Whelan's sending off for a second bookable offence – a stupid tackle on Cabaye after kicking the ball away in the wake of a challenge on Moussa Sissoko minutes earlier – Stoke's manager debated the issue with Martin Atkinson. The referee promptly gave him his own marching orders.
Conceded a penalty
It got worse for his team who swiftly conceded a penalty when Wilson brought down Loic Remy in the area. Out came a red card, off went Wilson and up to the spot stepped Remy. He struck the kick poorly, though, and Thomas Sorensen saved fairly comfortably.
No sooner had Atkinson waved away Stoke's own appeals for a handball penalty against the Newcastle defender Mike Williamson than their nine men conceded an equaliser when Remy's shot took two deflections before bouncing into the net via Sorensen's foot.
Stoke then conceded a rather soft second goal when Yoan Gouffran shot assuredly into the bottom corner. A third Newcastle goal soon arrived.This time a cross from Davide Santon and was headed home by Remy. Cabaye scored their fourth, sidefooting beyond Sorensen and then Papiss Cisse scored from the spot to round off the scoring.