MATCH REPORT: NEWCASTLE UNITED 3 CHELSEA 2
A late goal once again was the undoing of Chelsea, this time costing us all the points on a clear and chilly afternoon on Tyneside.
In what became an increasingly lively game, it was Newcastle who took the lead through Jonas Gutierrez shortly before half-time and marginally against the run of play, but having stepped up a gear after the break, the Blues took a 2-1 lead.
The scorers were familiar - Frank Lampard with his 197th Chelsea goal and Juan Mata with his 16th of the season. Both were tremendous strikes. But catching us on the counter-attack, Newcastle recovered to take all three points thanks to two Moussa Sissoko goals.
Demba Ba, starting against his former club, failed to finish the first half due to a badly broken nose.
Ba was back in the starting 11 and John Terry and Petr Cech also returned with Fernando Torres, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ross Turnbull making way. Branislav Ivanovic moved to right-back and the midfield was unchanged.
Newcastle, following their away win at Aston Villa midweek, named the same team.
The Tynesiders may not be having a good season but a visit to St James' Park often proves a stern test, and so it proved again.
The partially new-look Newcastle, following their January recruitment drive, had the better of the opening minutes but Gary Cahill was able to get his body in the way as Papiss Cisse tried to test Cech with a shot. The next Geordie attack brought left-back Davide Santon forward but his attempt was easy for the Chelsea keeper.
At this stage it was important simply not to concede given recent knocks to confidence. It took 10 minutes for the visitors to begin to look composed in possession and try to find some space. Bertrand fired over one potentially dangerous cross.
Then on 14 minutes came the game's first true chance, not taken by Lampard. Mata's vision and accuracy gave Cole the chance to lay the ball back in front of goal but taking his shot first time, our no. 8 uncharacteristically smashed the ball over the bar.
Oscar also cleared the bar with an effort, but from much further out. The game looked to be turning our way. But then a Ramires pass was straight at an opponent deep in our half and it was played forward to Cisse who fortunately shot straight at Cech.
Then Santon volleyed worryingly close to the target after Cahill had headed a ball clear of the area.
It was a well-balanced game at this stage with contributions on the ball from Oscar and Mata giving the Chelsea following, high up behind one of the goals, reason to hope.
On 29 minutes Ramires went for a 50-50 loose ball with Gutierrez who was playing on the right rather than his more familiar left side. The Brazilian caught the Argentinian on the ankle and the home crowd were hoping for a red card, but Howard Webb showed yellow.
Moments later, Ba, the recipient of the expected jeers from the Toon support, was given his first chance to attack the Newcastle penalty area by a swift pass over the defence from Lampard. The striker beat Coloccini to the ball but Tim Krul was able to beat out the shot. Ba then headed the rebound wide and as he did so, received a kick on the nose by the Newcastle defender who was trying to clear the ball.
Was there an argument for dangerous play and a penalty? Ba was off the pitch for treatment for several minutes.
While Chelsea were down to 10 men, a gilt-edged chance came Cisse's way. From just eight yards out he aimed for the bottom corner but Cech saved brilliantly.
Ba, with a big white dressing on his face, came back on moments before the Blues went behind. Gutierrez scored with a glancing header from Santon's cross from deep.
Ba was still having problems and it was clear he could not continue. Torres came on for the close of the half.
The home side were buoyed by the goal and up to the break there was plenty of hurried defending by Chelsea to keep the deficit down.
Oscar showed good defensive qualities in his own half to dispossess the taller Sissoko as Newcastle tried to press home their advantage in the early minutes after the restart.
However showing admirable qualities, Chelsea settled into a steady stride and started to push Newcastle back with some good moves. The equaliser came on 54 minutes and it was the sweetest of strikes off the boot of Lampard.
He took a throw on his chest and managed to drift goal-side of his closest marker before unleashing a swerving shot that left Krul grasping at thin air. It gave Lampard 10 goals in 10 Premier League seasons.
Four minutes later Lampard could have put us ahead but headed straight at the keeper after Mata had crossed.
It was the diminutive Spaniard who decided to match Lampard for goal of the day on the hour. Ivanovic's cross hit a defender but it fell to Torres, back-to-goal. He laid it off to Mata whose curling shot from just inside the area was a goal from moment it pinged off his boot.
Before play restarted, Cisse and Cole were both booked for an altercation.
It was all Chelsea now, and after Oscar had glided into the area and crossed, Mata, falling and marked, volleyed over.
However Newcastle, against the tide, were able to bring scores level on the break. Cisse turned past Terry on the halfway line and played Gouffran through ahead of Cahill. Cech saved the new-signing's shot but could only push it wide to Sissoko who found the net. It was 2-2 with 67 minutes played.
It had become a highly-entertaining encounter. The Blues continued to try to play our football but did look vulnerable to further counter-attacks. Sissoko with impressive pace beat Cole on the outside but Cech dived and saved well.
Inside the final 10 minutes, Oscar, with a driving run, almost picked out Torres in front of goal but then in end-to-end fashion, Cisse wrong-footed the back-peddling Cahill before striking his shot straight at Cech.
Both Lampard and Cisse then fired shots over, the Chelsea man from further out.
It always looked likely one of these sides would find a winner in such an open encounter and to our distress, it was the Geordies who did so with 89 minutes on the clock.
Santan, who had frequently caused problems coming forward from full-back, was allowed to play the ball across to Sissoko on the edge of the area. The shot was clean and Cech could do nothing to stop it.
Deep into stoppage time there was one more shooting chance for Lampard. He hammered it in a crowded box but it hit Steven Taylor. Claims for a handball never looked likely to be heard and after three draws in a row, the Blues were tasting defeat.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata, Bertrand; Ba (Torres 42).
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Azpilicueta, Ake, Benayoun, Marin.
Scorers Lampard 54, Mata 61.
Booked Ramires 30, Cole 61, Mata 90+2.
Newcastle (4-2-3-1): Krul; Debuchy, S Taylor, Coloccini (c), Santon; Perch, Cabaye; Gutierrez; Sissoko (Yanga-Mbiwa 90+2), Gouffran (Marveaux 84); Cissé.
Unused subs: Elliot, Anita, Bigirimana, Obertan, Shola Ameobi.
Scorers Gutierrez 40, Sissoko 67, 89.
Booked Perch 45+3, Cisse 61.
Referee Howard Webb