Newcastle 1-1 Watford: Allan Saint-Maximin scores stunning goal but Joao Pedro grabs Hornets a point

From smiling faces to hanging on like loose teeth, this really was a smack in the mouth for Newcastle United.

A sold-out St James’ Park was in full voice as they headed for just their second victory of the season with three minutes to play.

It says much about the quality at the bottom of the Premier League – or rather, the lack of it – that it would have been enough to emerge from the relegation places, demoting their opponents Watford in the process. It might even have marked Claudio Ranieri’s final act as manager.

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Allan Saint-Maximin scored a sensational opening goal for Newcastle against Watford

The French forward used his power to cut across the pitch before striking low into the net

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But then, from nothing, a twist in the tale. The visitors sprung an attack down the right, substitute Kiko Femenia dug out a cross and Joao Pedro muscled between two defenders to direct a cute header into the far corner.

St James’ fell silent, a hush soon to be invaded by groans of anxiety. Watford looked likely winners. Come the end, the final whistle was a relief for Eddie Howe – not in celebration of three points as he had so recently thought, but in preservation of one.

They had led thanks to their only shot on target in the 49th minute. It was, in fairness, a moment of class hardly in keeping with the rest of the contest. Neither was it in keeping with Allan Saint-Maximin’s otherwise exasperating display. But that is the price on the ticket with a maverick such as him.

Watford right back Jeremy Ngakia dallied in possession and Saint-Maximin stole by the touchline. It was not a goalscoring opportunity, but the Frenchman soon made it one, driving into the penalty area and beyond two yellow jerseys before hammering into the bottom corner.

Watford pulled themselves back into the game with an 88th-minute goal from Joao Pedro

Howe’s side retreated thereafter and never looked like extending their lead. Watford spurned a couple of decent openings through Josh King and former Magpie Moussa Sissoko, who blazed wide when in on goal. But the game was drifting towards a home win when Pedro salvaged the point that keeps his team the right side of the dotted line.

The first half looked exactly what it was – 19th versus 17th. Of 19 efforts on goal, only one found the target. Even then, the header from Watford debutant Samir landed softly in the arms of Martin Dubravka.

The stadium TVs here usually run endless replays during the half-time interval. The punters hadn’t even taken the head off their beer by the time that lowlight package had expired.

Eddie Howe looks on in frustration after Pedro’s equaliser, which kept his side in the dropzone

Moussa Sissoko sent a clear chance over after it had been put on a plate by Emmanuel Dennis

Claudio Ranieri’s side missed a slew of chances and went out to win the game after levelling

The one clip that did get an airing was a Joelinton hook that clipped the Watford crossbar on 11 minutes. The Brazilian was the best player in that opening period but he should have scored twice, later stabbing wide at the far post. Perhaps that is why he is thriving as a midfield destroyer. He used to be destructive in attack, too, only not in a way beneficial to his team.

It was a half to forget, meanwhile, for £25million Newcastle debutant Chris Wood, who twice headed over from decent enough positions.

His second half was not much better, although the service to him was non-existent. How he would have longed for the cross from which Pedro levelled.

Newcastle, you feel, are going to need more than Wood as attacking reinforcements if they are ever to escape the bottom three. 

Newcastle fans were desperate to see their side win against one of their rivals to beat the drop

But Pedro (right) managed to silence the St James’ Park faithful when he headed home

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