Final Score: Gillingham 0 Newcastle United 1
NEWCASTLE United's wait for their first victory – and goal – of the season ended as they safely progressed through to round three of the Capital One Cup at Gillingham's expense.
Perhaps fittingly, the strike that settled the game at Priestfield was not scored by a player in black and white, but by former Sunderland defender John Egan, who deflected Gabriel Obertan's cross into his own net after 25 minutes.
It was no more than United deserved. They dominated throughout and restricted the Gills to a handful of half chances. So much so that the League One side, who sit 45 places behind United in the football pyramid, only registered one attempt on target in the 90 minutes.
Then again, given the strength of the squad who travelled to Kent by plane this morning, manager Alan Pardew was clearly eager to avoid Newcastle's first defeat at this stage of the tournament since 1990.
Pardew made six changes from the team that drew against Aston Villa on Saturday; among them were a full debut for 18-year-old Rolando Aarons and a return to the United squad for Mehdi Abeid for the first time since January 2013.
But this was still a strong side, with five summer signings included among the squad.
Pardew will likely have been impressed with the way his side settled into the game, but he would have had his heart in his mouth in the 12th minute when Fabricio Coloccini tangled with Gills striker Cody McDonald in the box.
No penalty was given, as referee Oliver Langford correctly ruled that the Argentinean had won the ball with his last-ditch lunge.
Abeid dragged a couple of speculative efforts wide, and Emmanuel Rivière shot at Gills goalkeeper Stephen Bywater as the Premier League side asserted their control on the game.
And just as the visitors' bright start looked like it was being reduced to half chances from range and hopeful crosses into the box that eluded anyone in black and white, Obertan's trickery on the right was rewarded as his lofted delivery bounced off Egan and into the Gillingham net. It was the hosts' fourth own goal in their five games this season.
However, Obertan remains a footballing enigma, with his first-half showing ebbing between brilliant and frustrating.
Two minutes after the opener, he hot-footed through the Gillingham defence but a stretching Rivière could only find Bywater from his cross. Another ball into the box almost resulted in Josh Pritchard scoring a second own goal.
But on the stroke of half-time, when put through brilliantly by Siem de Jong, his poor first touch quickly ended the promising United counter.
A second goal eluded Newcastle after the break, although Massadio Haidara shook the bar with a brilliantly-executed long-range effort and Coloccini blazed an effort at Bywater within the space of ten second-half minutes.
Substitute Remy Cabella also threatened after cutting in on his left foot, and Daryl Janmaat was denied his first Newcastle goal thanks to some dogged defending from the hosts.
Then again, for all their endeavor, substitute Luke Norris had Gillingham's best chance, as he forced Tim Krul into a reflex save with a 20-yard strike shortly after the hour mark. Defender Matt Fish was not far away from sending the home fans into delirium before the break, but his curling effort sailed narrowly over Krul's bar.
With a sell-out crowd packing Priestfield, this was hardly a disastrous day for the Gills, but it was Newcastle's quality that won them a game for only the second time in their last 12.
Goals: 0-1: Egan OG (25, Obertan's cross hit the Gillingham centre back and bounced into the net) Booking: N/A Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands): Correctly dismissed an early Gillingham penalty appeal, and always looked in control of proceedings 9
3/5 GILLINGHAM (3-5-2): Bywater 8, Legge 6, Egan 6, Davies 6, Fish 6, Hessenthaler 6, Dack 7, Pritchard 5 (A Morris 45 7), Hause 6, Kedwell 5 (Norris 65 7), McDonald 5 (German 65 5). Subs: G Morris (gk), Hoyte, Dickenson, McGlashan.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-2-3-1):
7 Krul: Had little to do throughout, but made an important save to deny Luke Norris in the second half.
7 Janmaat: A relatively quiet evening defensively allowed him to be a threat going forward.
8 COLOCCINI: Looked nervy in the opening minutes, but grew into the game and coped with the lively Kedwell and McDonald pairing.
8 Taylor: An accomplished display from the experienced defender. Rarely looked flustered by the Gills' forward line.
8 Haidara: The left back got forward often and delivered plenty of inviting crosses. Hit the bar with a long-range effort.
7 Sissoko: A workmanlike performance from the Frenchman in front of the back four. Broke up Gillingham's play throughout.
6 Abeid: Poor distribution, but looked threatening with his long-range efforts.
7 Obertan: Energetic performance, and was rewarded with an assist for the Toon winner.
5 de Jong: Overshadowed by Obertan and Aarons in attacking midfield. Quiet game.
7 Aarons: Confident debut for the teenager. Linked up well with Obertan when he was switched to the right wing in the first half.
6 Rivière: Restricted to a couple of half chances as he continues to search for his first goal for Newcastle.
Subs: Cabella (for Aarons 60) Perez (for de Jong 68) Rivière (for Gouffran 86) (not used): Elliot (gk), Dummett, Anita, Ferreyra.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Fabricio Coloccini – his quality and experience showed as he helped his side progress through this tie without any major scares.