Callum Wilson scored twice as Newcastle relieved the pressure on manager Steve Bruce with a much-needed win at Everton.
Bruce has endured intense criticism from Newcastle’s fan base as his team lost their past five Premier League games to slip towards the relegation zone.
But after switching to a 4-4-2 diamond formation they secured their first win in 12 games, with Callum Wilson’s superb double helping to beat a passive Everton.
Wilson, who had drawn a classy save from Jordan Pickford in the first half and shot wide after the break, ended a seven-game goal drought by heading in Jonjo Shelvey’s corner.
Newcastle’s top scorer then hit the post before scoring in stoppage time.
Bruce was understandably delighted at the final whistle as his team moved nine points clear of the relegation zone.
Everton, who tested keeper Karl Darlow in the first half, could not find a way through Newcastle’s defence and missed out on a chance to draw level on points with Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side remain seventh, three points off the top four.
Wilson sparkles as Newcastle end wretched run
Bruce has borne the brunt of fans’ frustrations for the past two months as Newcastle dwindled towards what looked like a scrap for survival.
But he has always maintained his side are capable of turning the corner once they got Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles back from coronavirus problems, and Ryan Fraser from injury.
There has been criticism of his formations and team selection too, but, in a week when Bruce added Bournemouth coach Graeme Jones to his staff, Wilson’s return to form and a new formation offered supporters much-needed hope.
There were signs of improvement in the second half of their midweek defeat by Leeds, but, with Miguel Almiron at the tip of the diamond and Wilson and Fraser further forward, this was Newcastle’s best display for months.
Wilson, often isolated in previous matches, got better support and, although starting slightly to the right, he looked dangerous from the outset.
Shelvey had already gone close with a deflected shot when Wilson drew a fine stop from Pickford with a header from Fraser’s corner. Further good link-up play from Wilson led to a free-kick where Shelvey could not hit the target.
But with a better balance in midfield and a firm defence, Bruce bellowed at his players from the sidelines as he sensed a positive result.
That came when Wilson nodded in his ninth of the season to give the visitors a deserved lead.
Although he wasted a great chance to make it 2-0 when he rounded Pickford and hit a post, he made up for that error with a 10th goal of the season by firing in unmarked.