Chris Wood retuned to haunt Newcastle with a stunning hat-trick as Nottingham Forest handed new boss Nuno Espirito Santo the first Premier League victory of his reign.
Wood, the man for whom the Magpies’ new owners paid Burnley £25million in January last year in a bid to stave off relegation, took advantage of woeful defending to plunder a treble which ended his former club’s seven-game winning league run at St James’ Park and condemned them to a sixth defeat in seven games in all competitions.
A 3-1 victory was little more than the visitors deserved on a day when Eddie Howe’s men, who took the lead through a contentious Alexander Isak penalty, were ripped apart by Anthony Elanga and Morgan Gibbs-White in front of a disbelieving crowd of 52,207.
Victory on Tyneside served as a boost to Forest’s survival hopes, but left a huge question mark over Newcastle’s chances of repeating last season’s top-four finish with a trip to Liverpool and Manchester City’s visit to St James’ to come either side of their FA Cup third-round tie against Sunderland.
The Magpies set off determined to provide a response to Saturday’s dismal 1-0 defeat at Luton, and their early pressure paid off after 23 minutes when Isak beat keeper Matt Turner from the penalty spot after defender Murillo had been harshly adjudged to have fouled the striker as he turned on Anthony Gordon’s pass.
Elanga, who tormented full-back Dan Burn throughout, hooked wide from Moussa Niakhate’s long throw, and the former Manchester United winger should have scored 12 minutes before the break when he got in behind Burn down the right, but could not find a way past Martin Dubravka.
Isak saw a cheeky chipped attempt turned over by Turner at his near post and Miguel Almiron skied an effort as he slipped at the end of a slick team move, and the Magpies were made to pay for missed chances in first-half stoppage time.
Almiron won possession on the edge of the visitors’ box, but failed to pick out a team-mate, allowing Gibbs-White to sprint upfield and find Elanga, who handed Wood the simplest of tasks to equalise.
It might have been worse for the hosts within seconds of the restart when Gibbs-White glanced a header wide from Elanga’s dangerous cross with Newcastle looking increasingly vulnerable.
Dubravka was relieved when Elanga fired straight at him after Gibbs-White had once again sparked panic among the home rearguard, but the Sweden international made amends with 53 minutes gone when he slipped the ball into Wood’s path and looked on as the striker turned Burn inside out before lifting a shot over Dubravka and into the net.
Howe swiftly replaced Burn and Almiron with Tino Livramento and Callum Wilson, but his side were undone again on the hour when Murillo’s through-ball split a ragged defence and Wood deftly stepped around the painfully exposed Dubravka to complete his hat-trick.
Isak saw a 67th-minute shot deflected wide and Lewis Miley only just missed the target two minutes later with Howe’s men scrapping for a way back into the game, but meeting both fierce resistance and devastating counter-punching, but the damage was done and there was no way back.