PAPISS CissÃ© had removed his tracksuit and was standing on the touchline seemingly muttering a little prayer when Hull City scored their second goal.
Until then, the atmosphere inside the stadium had been surprisingly tepid. Far tamer than expected, the anti-Alan Pardew protests hyped up on social media all week proved half-hearted and almost apologetic.
Suddenly, though, a largely neutral mood threatened to turn ugly. High in the stands Mike Ashley, Newcastleâ€™s owner, folded his arms and Pardewâ€™s body language appeared edgy.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. When CissÃ© fractured a kneecap in April he was set to be sidelined until Christmas, and the Senegal striker returned to training only on Monday. When Pardew told his medical staff he would be on the bench they were deeply unhappy, but ultimately overruled. As CissÃ© stripped for action, heads were shaken. It seemed not so much a high-stakes gamble, as a manager possibly playing his final, desperate, card. But substitutions can rarely have proved as transformative.
It did not take long for the supposed convalescent to score twice, thereby not only diluting the disgruntlement festering beneath the gameâ€™s surface but earning a previously unlikely point. Granted, Newcastle still seek their first Premier League win of the season, but the No9â€™s intervention may well have been enough to preserve his managerâ€™s job.
A rather odd afternoon began with a group of Newcastle fans applauding Steve Bruce as the visiting manager entered the groundâ€™s main reception. As displays of disloyalty go, serenading a rival manager takes some beating but the atmosphere inside the stadium proved somewhat less mutinous.
Admittedly there were odd chants of â€œWe want Pardew outâ€ and some jeering when he trapped a loose ball, but it was all kindergarten stuff. Certainly the Tyneside air was much less toxic than when Newcastleâ€™s manager endured wholesale abuse during a 3-0 win against Cardiff here at the end of last season. Only one â€œSack Pardewâ€ banner was visible.
The JonÃ¡s GutiÃ©rrez factor perhaps contributed to this slightly uneasy calm. In a bid to bolster the morale of their left-winger, who is receiving treatment for testicular cancer in Argentina, Newcastleâ€™s players ran out wearing identical over-shirts all bearing the number 18 and the name JonÃ¡s.
The crowd responded with their own tribute in the form of sustained clapping in the 18th minute. Sixty seconds earlier there had been more of the same â€“ this time in recognition of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, the two Newcastle fans who died when flight MH17 was shot down.
Against such a backdrop there were clearly a few pricked consciences, a few mixed feelings about the ethics and perceived pettiness of attempting to engineer the managerâ€™s ousting.
Moreover, Newcastle were actually playing quite well. True, many Tynesiders would have much preferred Hatem Ben Arfa to be wearing black and white on the pitch rather than signing autographs in the posh seats (controversially loaned to Hull by Pardew, he was ineligible to play), but Cheik TiotÃ©, RÃ©my Cabella and Fabricio Coloccini were all impressing.
TiotÃ©, particularly, was excellent, the defensive midfielderâ€™s outstanding performance probably succeeding in turning a few cynics into cheerleaders.
Newcastle were clearly the better side, but had problems in the final third where, despite Cabellaâ€™s clever prompting, Emmanuel RiviÃ¨re, Pardewâ€™s lone striker, rarely troubled Allan McGregor.
This was far from a vintage Hull performance â€“ although Andrew Robertson shone at left-back, provoking all sorts of danger on speedy overlaps â€“ but Bruce seemed happy enough with his teamâ€™s containment policy, and, sure enough, their patient approach was rewarded with an opportunistic goal early in the second half.
When Jack Colback lingered in possession, Mohamed DiamÃ© stole the ball before backheeling to Ahmed Elmohamady, whose cross brought out the very best in Nikica Jelavic. The strikerâ€™s sublime volleyed scissor kick was far too good for Tim Krul and as virtually every other Hull outfield player leapt on Jelavic in delight, Ashley received some advice.
â€œWe want Pardew out,â€ sang the St Jamesâ€™ choir, rather more loudly than before. Even so, the subsequent refrains of â€œSacked in the morningâ€ soon faded and died. There was to be no outright anarchy in the stands – or at least not yet.
Even so Newcastleâ€™s manager looked relieved when Jelavic touched a free-kick to Huddlestone. His shot rebounded off the wall, falling at the feet of Stephen Quinn who, unmarked, missed from six yards.
It was to be a mere stay of execution as when, of all people, TiotÃ© conceded possession and DiamÃ© took full advantage, turning Daryl Janmaat before crashing a stupendous, swerving shot past Krul.
On came CissÃ© and everything changed. Stephen Quinn erred and, atoning for his earlier mistake, TiotÃ© played in the No9, who unleashed a low shot which, squeezed just inside a post, punished McGregor.
Bruce switched from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 and CissÃ© sensed further opportunity. When Yoan Gouffran headed Moussa Sissokoâ€™s cross back into the area, the unattended striker lashed the ball past McGregor. Finally, Pardew smiled. – The Guardian