A TRIP to the Potteries is not the ideal day trip for many Premier League teams, but Alan Pardew looked to have come up with a way of making the most of a night out at the Britannia Stadium for the second year in row.
After watching £9m striker Papiss Cisse pounce to power Newcastle United ahead immediately after half-time, however, a frustrated Pardew had to endure Stoke City grabbing two late goals to send the Magpies home pointless from the Potteries.
Newcastle had stood up to the majority of Stoke's advances until they allowed Jon Walters and Cameron Jerome too much space to condemn the visitors to a fourth consecutive defeat.
It had been looking good for Newcastle, even if the performance lacked the style of 13 months ago when Demba Ba's Halloween hat-trick sealed a win.
This time Newcastle could not become the first team this season to leave the Britannia as winners and instead are left nursing a defeat which leaves them two points above the relegation zone.
The outcome seemed cruel on a Newcastle team that had stuck to their task until Stoke struck late to ensure Pardew's worst run of defeats since taking over continued.
Defeats to West Ham, Swansea and Southampton in their previous three league matches were in stark contrast to last season when teams struggled to break Newcastle down.
It is now a huge concern for Pardew, knowing that dates with Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal are on the agenda before the end of the year.
Despite a long line of injuries, the team last night - with skipper Fabricio Coloccini back to marshall the defence - still possessed enough experience.
But with dented confidence from the disappointing run of defeats it was always going to be more about keeping Stoke at bay than scoring at the opposite end. A defensively-minded central midfield of James Perch and Cheik Tiote backed that up.
Yet in the early moments of the match it was Perch who found some space on the edge of the Stoke box to drive a shot narrowly wide of Asmir Begovic's upright.
After Begovic held a routine effort from Vurnon Anita shortly after an encouraging start from Newcastle, the Potters gradually took command.
That said, though, the closest Tim Krul came to conceding in the first half was when Mike Williamson turned a Glenn Whelan free-kick against his own post.
Williamson knew little about it after the cross had shaved Danny Simpson's leg, but that half chance could quite easily have dropped in the net rather than to safety.
After that, Newcastle had to be more alert. Whelan was unlucky with a dipping volley that curled marginally over and his excellent pass behind the visitors' defence from inside his own half deserved a goal.
But when Matthew Etherington and Charlie Adam got a man over on Coloccini the defender's presence of mind forced the former to overhit a pass to his team-mate which should really have led to the opening goal.
Coloccini was also heavily involved when his stray arm smashed Peter Crouch in the face, forcing the striker off with a facial wound, but the Argentine had no intention other than to head the ball when the two went up for a challenge.
Crouch's replacement, ex-Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones, was quickly involved. He somehow side-footed a volley wide when he was left unmarked at the back post to meet a corner flicked on by Robert Huth.
But Newcastle started the second half just as they did the first - this time with the reward of the opening goal.
When Tiote dispossessed Whelan in the centre of the pitch, the ball ran kindly for Ba. The Senegal striker had the space to run in to and his shot was not held by Begovic.
The Bosnian goalkeeper's poor stop bounced in front of him, Cisse nipped in and side-footed low in off the post.
His fourth goal of the season was a relief for everyone around him - only Krul missed out on the celebrations - and had been the result of a effective and lively performance.
Like the first half, Stoke picked up the pace more as the half wore on. Despite a wayward Walters header from Etherington's centre, there was still no need for Krul to make a save.
When he was finally called in to action he was equal to Walters' drive from inside the box. The same Stoke player then volleyed over the rebound as Newcastle held firm.
But after threatening to add to their advantage when Begovic twice denied Cisse shots from difficult angles, Stoke found the breakthrough nine minutes from time.
The lively Walters started the move by flicking over his head into the path of substitute Jerome before continuing his run into the box. Jerome's centre was weighted perfectly and Walters jumped to nod beyond Krul.
And less than four minutes later the game had been turned around. This time Walters' direct ball was headed down by Jones and Jerome, who had left Coloccini behind, powered the winner low beyond Krul.
The search for a win goes on for Pardew.
Goals: Cisse (47, 0-1); Walters (81, 1-1); Jerome (85, 2-1)
Bookings: Santon (15, foul); Perch (18, foul); Adam (28, foul); Cameron (59, foul)
Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham) 6
STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Begovic 6; Shotton 6, Shawcross 6, Huth 6, Cameron 5; WALTERS 8, Whelan 6, Nzonzi 5, Adam 4 (Kightly 67, 5), Etherington 6 (Jerome 67, 6); Crouch 5 (Jones 40, 6). Subs (not used): Upson, Sorensen (gk), Palacios, Whitehead
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-2): Krul 6; Simpson 6, Williamson 5, Coloccini 5, Santon 6; Anita 5 (Sammy Ameobi 90), Perch 6, Tiote 7, Gutierrez 6; Ba 7, CISSE 7 (Ranger 90). Subs (not used): Elliott (gk), Bigirimana, Marveaux, Ferguson, Tavernier
MAN OF THE MATCH: JON Walters – turned up the heat when it mattered to power Stoke to victory