|Fulham slip further away
Newcastle 2 Fulham 0
MARK VIDUKA handed Kevin Keegan his first win as Newcastle boss.
Ten games after taking the helm at St James' Park for the second time, Keegan finally chalked up three points to ease his side's relegation fears.
Toon were sitting just three points above the drop zone at the start of the day.
But goals from Viduka and Michael Owen late on have given the Geordies breathing space at the bottom.
And Keegan admitted the win has given the whole of Tyneside a lift.
He said: “Whilst it doesn’t mean we are not still in some danger, it just takes the pressure off everyone at the club.
“The players’ attitude has been questioned, my ability as a manager has been questioned - but that’s what you leave yourself open for if you don’t get results.
“But more than anything, it just gives everyone around the club a boost - everyone, the supporters, the players, the staff.
“But we have still got a lot of work to do. We have had a good week - by our recent standards, we have had a great week.”
Aussie striker Viduka switched Geremi's pass from right foot to left before shooting into the bottom corner.
And Owen made sure of the win seven minutes from time with a header from another Geremi assist.
Keegan hailed skipper Owen for his commitment to Newcastle's cause.
He said: “Michael probably answered a few critics again today - and there are plenty out there, from what I am seeing.
“He has led this team fantastically. He is a great skipper, not because of all the things he shouts, but because of the example he shows.
“He is a team player - we have asked him to play a different role and it is not, 'Oh, well it’s not what I do’, it is, 'Yes, I will do that’, and he is playing it very, very well.
“I have said all the time what I think of Michael Owen. He would certainly be in most people’s England side.
“What he needs is to be at a club which is successful and scores goals. Today, he is at a club that has been successful on the day and he has scored a goal."
Fulham were the opponents on Newcastle's last league win back on December 15.
And Roy Hodgson's men are now four points adrift of safety.
Boss Hodgson said: “We were two points behind Bolton and we are now three points. Birmingham, who were four points ahead of us at the start of the day are still four points ahead.
“We have got seven games to play. But it was a significant move for Sunderland with their excellent win at Aston Villa, so we have lost touch with them.
“But having said that ... seven matches, a lot of things can happen. We have got to keep believing that our football can get us out of this situation and we have got to hope that the things that didn’t go right for us today, we can put right.”
Newcastle should have been ahead by more than just Viduka's goal by the break.
Obafemi Martins and Owen both saw blistering efforts fingertipped away by Kasey Kaller.
Owen also headed straight at the American keeper, while at the other end Steve Harper kept out Jimmy Bullard's dipper.
After the break, Viduka saw a header blocked and Martins fired over from six yards.
Joey Barton's long-ranger fell wide and Martins had a goal chalked out for offside before Owen struck to calm Toon nerves.
Newcastle: Harper, Beye (Edgar 87), Taylor, Faye, Jose Enrique, Geremi, Butt, Barton, Owen, Viduka (Smith 84), Martins (N’Zogbia 74). Subs not used: Forster, Carroll. Goals: Viduka 6, Owen 83.
Fulham: Keller, Stalteri (Healy 84), Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Andreasen, Bullard, Murphy (Volz 71), Davies, McBride (Dempsey 66), Johnson. Subs not used: Warner, Bocanegra. Booked: Volz.
Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).