FOR a while, we had witnessed vintage Joelinton – the one from the Mike Ashley era who played at centre-forward and couldn’t hit a cow’s backside with a banjo.
The big Brazilian bungled one close-range chance by handling before he found the netted – and then produced a miss-of-the-season contender by Row-Zedding it from six yards.
But, finally, the new Joelinton – the impressive model from the ultra-efficient Geordie Arabia era – emerged, finding the net with a two-yard tap-in sending the massed ranks of Toon Army foot soldiers into rapture.
They were telling their Ma they don’t want no tea, they were going to Wembley.
And next Tuesday, at an expectant St James’ Park, Eddie Howe’s men will surely fulfil that prophet by wrapping up this Carabao Cup semi-final in the second leg.
Saints, rock-bottom of the Premier League, had an equaliser ruled out because of an Adam Armstrong handball but had centre-half Duje Caleta-Car sent off late on as Newcastle’s superior class began to tell.
Eddie Howe’s side will surely be at Wembley on February 26, to face Manchester United or Nottingham Forest – and they will fancy their chances of a first domestic trophy since the long gone days of Wor Jackie Milburn.
Given the 18-year hiatus since their last semi-final appearance, and their 54-year wait for any major trophy, the 644-mile trip from Tyneside would have felt like a trip to the local for the Toon Army.
Their team have been solid, professional but actually rather boring of late, yet after more than a decade of shambolic, amateurish and actually rather boring under Ashley, this season has represented a major uplift.
Among the home support, there wasn’t the same sense of occasion. The threat of relegation and a dismal Premier League record at St Mary’s saw to that.
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Nick Pope – dressed in fluorescent orange like a steward – has had a similar none-shall-pass attitude to his work of late.
He has not conceded a goal since a late Saints consolation in a 4-1 win here on November 6 – a run of ten straight clean sheets for the puritan Pope.
Newcastle ought to have gone in front in the second minute whe Miguel Almiron went on a scamper and squared for Joe Willock but the midfielder, in glorious isolation, skied his shot.
The Saints were clearly struggling for confidence and rhythm, their central defenders, Lyanco and Caleta-Car, consistently passing to Newcastle players and inviting pressure on the hosts.
Caleta-Car clattered Almiron with a horrible clumsy challenge which earned him a booking.
When Newcastle broke soon after, Almiron on a bandy-legged dribble, Kieran Trippier with a trademark whipped centre, Willock was at it again, ballooning his volley.
Howe’s men thought they had scored five minutes before the break when Willock cut in from the left and forced a save from Gavin Bazunu.
As Mohammed Salisu hacked clear, there were a queue of Newcastle players waiting but Joelinton seemed to control with his arm before his shot found the net and ref Stuart Attwell ruled it out.
Pope was soon forced into an improvised save from a fizzing, swerving low drive from Carlos Alcaraz.
And Pope, suddenly busy, had to dart out of his area to clear from Moussa Djenepro, thudding into the Saints winger as he did so but escaping punishment despite the howls of the home players and supporters.
After the break, Almiron was leaving scorched earth down the left flank again but when he cut back, Sean Longstaff cleared the bar, the theme for Newcastle’s evening.
After Alcaraz – the Argentinian midfielder making his full debut – had nutmegged Dan Burn, Sekjou Mara sent a scissors kick just wide.
But then came an extraordinary miss, which seemed to sum up Newcastle’s recent form.
Almiron’s pace and trickery bewildered the Saints defence but after his low centre located Joelinton six yards out, the Brazilian somehow shot over despite attempting to side-foot, rather than blast it.
Alcaraz, who can definitely play a bit, released Che Adams but the sub almost had too much time to think and shot too close to Pope, who stuck out a foot to save.
This was more like it from Southampton and soon Adams forced a sprawling save from Pope.
But then Alexander Isak, just on for Callum Wilson, beat his man down the right and centred low for Joelinton to finally end his frustration from two yards as the Geordies cavorted behind him.
Saints thought they had equalised almost immediately but Armstrong had handled, as he and Dan Burn fell over each other, as he applied the finishing touch to Samuel Edozie’s hooked centre.
Caleta-Car suffered his second booking for chopping down Allan Saint-Maximin late on and the Geordies will have sung as they de-iced their motors for the long journey home.