Newcastle United look almost certain to be playing in the Champions League next season after Callum Wilson’s double saw them come from a goal down to beat bottom club Southampton 3-1 in the Premier League on Sunday.
Victory put Eddie Howe’s side on 65 points with five games remaining, 11 points ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and 12 ahead of seventh-placed Liverpool who play later on Sunday.
For Southampton the end of their decade-long residence in the top flight appears to be drawing ever closer.
Third-placed Newcastle were rocked shortly before halftime when Stuart Armstrong put the visitors ahead.
But Newcastle, who have not played in the Champions League for two decades, dominated the second half with substitute Wilson making an immediate impact with a tap-in goal.
He then had another disallowed for offside, but Southampton’s relief was short-lived as an own goal by Theo Walcott put Eddie Howe’s side in front.
Two minutes later Wilson, who had come on at halftime, sealed the points after being played in by Alexander Isak.
“We’re getting closer, the games are running out and we’re picking up points so all we can do is keep getting the points,” Wilson, who has 15 league goals this season, said.
“I think we started slow and sloppy, we had a game a few days ago so it was probably down to tired legs and minds.
“We regrouped at halftime, tactically tweaked a few things and blew them away second half.”
Newcastle still have a few hurdles to overcome with Arsenal up next, but they are close to ensuring a top-four finish for the first time since 2003.
“It’s a tough league with tough games to come, we’ll enjoy the momentum and the supporters helped us a lot, we look forwards to Arsenal,” Howe said.
Newcastle had scored 10 goals in their last two games but were off the pace in the first half and Southampton were bright on the counter-attack and took the lead when Armstrong turned in Kamaldeen Sulemana’s low ball.
Wilson, back on the bench after starting and scoring twice in the 4-1 victory against Everton, was sent on at halftime and his impact was immense as Newcastle came to life.
He poked in the equaliser in the 54th minute, then forced a great save from Alex McCarthy and had a goal chalked off.
Walcott then poked out a leg to divert a corner into his own net and Wilson finished off the Saints as he coolly rounded McCarthy. Only the woodwork then denied him a hat-trick.
“We’re keeping our feet on the ground, taking one game at a time. Nobody at the start of the season would have had us in this position as late as it is,” Wilson said.
“There’s still a lot of work to do.”
Southampton are running out time to save themselves.
They have 24 points with four games remaining, six points behind 17th-placed Nottingham Forest who are in the first place above the relegation zone and who they face next in a game they must win to have any realistic chance of survival.
“We’ve had a bad run but we know we can compete against anyone, there is still points to play for and we are still alive and we will go to the very end,” manager Ruben Selles said.
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