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Joe Willock and Callum Wilson combined to head Newcastle firmly into the race for Champions League qualification as they leapfrogged Manchester United into third place.

Willock’s 65th-minute header, his third goal of the season, and a second from substitute Wilson two minutes from time inflicted just a second defeat in 17 games in all competitions on Erik ten Hag’s side and gained a measure of revenge for February’s Carabao Cup final heartache at Wembley.

It was a deserved 2-0 victory too for the Magpies, who created the better chances in the game and might have gone ahead through Alexander Isak, Sean Longstaff and Willock before they broke the deadlock in front of a crowd of 52,268.

They are now level on 50 points – one more than they collected during the whole of the last campaign – with United, but have a significantly better goal difference with both having 11 games to play.

Marcus Rashford, who had withdrawn from the England squad through injury, was named in Ten Hag’s starting line-up, while Eddie Howe kept faith with the 11 men who started the Magpies’ 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest last time out.

That meant only a seat on the bench for in-form midfielder Joelinton on his return from a two-match ban.

Both sides made early inroads in an enterprising start to the game with Rashford and Antony menacing in wide positions for the visitors as Isak stretched their defence.

Longstaff miskicked in front of goal after Isak had headed down Kieran Trippier’s sixth-minute cross at the end of a flowing counter-attack seconds after Sven Botman had dived in to block as Marcel Sabitzer burst into the Newcastle penalty area.

A fiercely-contested game saw both combatants employ high presses when out of possession with time at a premium for defenders and as Allan Saint-Maximin started to find his feet, it was the home side who began to exert sustained pressure.

David De Gea had to palm away Isak’s header from Jacob Murphy’s 16th-minute cross with the Spaniard also managing to block Willock’s follow-up, and he was grateful to be able to field Saint-Maximin’s curling effort in short order.

Murphy blasted a 25th-minute shot over from Bruno Guimaraes’ lay-off and United needed the calming influence of the vastly-experienced Raphael Varane to guide them through a testing period.

Longstaff blasted just wide from distance after Saint-Maximin had rolled the ball square for him with seven minutes of the first half to go, and the Frenchman set up Willock two minutes later, but saw him clear the crossbar from much closer range.

Antony was unable to hit the target with a first-time effort from Luke Shaw’s corner as a pulsating half drew to a close.

Saint-Maximin continued to torment Diogo Dalot without finding the killer final ball as the second half unfolded, and although Nick Pope had to collect a speculative attempt from Antony, defender Fabian Schar went close from distance with the Magpies pressing once again.

Ten Hag made his move with 28 minutes remaining when he sent on Jadon Sancho and, making his first appearance since February 1, Anthony Martial for Antony and Wout Weghorst, but his side fell behind three minutes later.

Guimaraes ran on to Isak’s astute pass and lofted the ball to the far post, where Saint-Maximin headed it back for Willock to turn home from point-blank range.

De Gea produced a superb reaction save to turn substitute Joelinton’s header on to the crossbar before Schar’s stooping effort came back off the post to keep the visitors in the game, but he was beaten for a second time at the death when Wilson nodded home from Trippier’s corner.