NEWCASTLE'S dreadful recent run continued as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Stoke City.
For the fourth game in a row, the Magpies lost without scoring, and while today's reverse was nowhere near as emphatic as though sustained against Everton, Southampton and Manchester United, it nevertheless piles further pressure on embattled boss Alan Pardew.
Erik Pieters' fluke 43rd-minute winner settled things, with the full-back misdirecting a cross that looped over at-fault goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Stoke are now just three points behind the Magpies, who remain in ninth position, and the mood within the Newcastle support is growing increasingly mutinous.
The growing discontent with Pardew was evident throughout, with sporadic chants of “We want Pardew out” audible from the away end housing around 3,000 Newcastle fans.
Two banners were also unfurled before kick-off reading “No more lies or excuses – Pardew out” and “Pardew is a muppet”. It remains to be seen, however, whether the supporters' unhappiness has any effect on owner, Mike Ashley.
Having watched his side concede 11 goals without reply in their previous three matches, Pardew opted for a radical change of formation at the Britannia Stadium.
Steven Taylor came into the side as a third centre-half, with Vurnon Anita and Paul Dummett lining up as wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation.
The new system meant Newcastle had an extra defensive player on the field, and the Magpies were much more solid for the majority of the first half.
They should have fallen behind in the tenth minute however, with Peter Crouch heading Marko Arnautovic's cross against the left-hand post after beating his marker on the edge of the six-yard box.
Newcastle hadn't really featured as an attacking force to that point, but the visitors wasted a glorious chance of their own two minutes later.
Shola Ameobi nodded Vurnon Anita's right-wing cross into Dan Gosling's path, but after swivelling in the area, the midfielder could only loop a tame first-time shot onto the roof of the net.
Nevertheless, Newcastle were at least holding their own – something that could not have been said of any of their previous three matches – and Papiss Cisse felt he should have had a penalty when he went down in the area following a challenge from Ryan Shawcross midway through the first half.
Shawcross only made minimal contact with the ball, but it would have been a soft decision had referee Mike Jones awarded it.
Stoke's first-half attacking tended to fall down as soon as the hosts reached the edge of the penalty area, and while Steven Nzonzi saw a shot deflect over off Fabricio Coloccini, there was little sign of the Potters taking the lead before a dreadful error from Tim Krul enabled them to make a breakthrough two minutes before the break.
Former Newcastle transfer target Erik Pieters mishit a cross from the left-hand side, but Krul somehow allowed the ball to loop over his head and drift into the far corner of the net. It was an extremely poor piece of goalkeeping from a player who was returning after a two-game injury absence.
Cisse hooked a volley well over the crossbar as Newcastle attempted to build up a head of steam at the start of the second half, but they should have found themselves two goals down seven minutes after the restart.
The impressive Arnautovic swung over a cross from the left, but for the second time in the game, Crouch failed to find the target with a headed opportunity from the edge of the six-yard box.
The former England striker finally tested Krul with a tame diving header midway through the second half, before Newcastle created a chance of their own at the other end.
Cisse's right-wing cross dropped fortuitously at the feet of Mike Williamson, but the centre-half's goalbound shot was blocked by Shawcross.
With Pardew overseeing affairs from the stands, John Carver made a double substitution with 17 minutes left, bringing on Hatem Ben Arfa and Adam Armstrong for Gosling and Cisse.
However, Ben Arfa injured his hip within a couple of minutes of being on the field and was unable to make much of an impact.
Newcastle did create one chance within the closing stages, but after Ameobi stood up an inviting cross from the left, Anita headed over as he stretched to make contact with the ball.
STOKE (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Ireland (Adam 66), Whelan, Nzonzi, Arnautovic; Odemwingie (Walters 86); Crouch.
Subs (not used): Sorensen (gk), Wilkinson, Muniesa, Palacios, Guidetti.
NEWCASTLE (3-5-2): Krul; S Taylor (Yanga-Mbiwa 61), Coloccini, Williamson; Anita, Gosling (Ben Arfa 73), Tiote, Gouffran, Dummett; Shola Ameobi, Cisse (Armstrong 73).
Subs (not used): Elliot (gk), Haidara, Bigirimana, de Jong.