NEWCASTLE United’s trip to Selhurst Park might have been the game both sides could have done with winning to give their respective battles to stay up a timely boost, and yet in the end it was the match neither could.

By the time the full-time whistle had blown Crystal Palace were the side left most disappointed with a draw, even if it was Newcastle who had taken the lead and then surrendered it – courtesy of Ciaran Clark’s silly pull on Christian Benteke’s shirt.

Rafael Benitez’s side have given themselves a point cushion to the Premier League’s bottom three, but he must have felt that it could have been a day for more for a long period.

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Newcastle effectively kept the Eagles at bay in the first half, and Mo Diame’s second goal of the season when he made the most of poor defending had earned the lead in the 22nd minute.

Palace were a different proposition after the restart, though, and it would have been no surprise had they followed up the equaliser with a winner.

In the end they also had to make do with just the one goal: Luka Milivojevic’s penalty had just enough on it to beat goalkeeper Karl Darlow after Clark – who did the same to Sakho soon after and escaped punishment - was penalised for the shirt pull.

Newcastle, with Benitez short of attacking options to change things when the going got tough, are still out of the relegation zone but how they could do with stunning Manchester United when they head to Tyneside next weekend.

Even though Newcastle wasted the opportunity to climb above the Eagles, given how they sat so close to each other at the wrong end of the table, the standings don’t really tell the whole recent story in terms of form.

Under Hodgson they have been a different team to earlier in the campaign. Since Newcastle overcame them at St James’ Park in October, Palace have been far stronger than their counterparts from the North-East.

In fact, while Palace’s form in the 16 games since would have had them sitting in the top eight having lost just three, Newcastle’s results have been far worse. They have only won twice, the worst form in the top-flight during that period. It didn’t show here.

Despite the frustrations, on and off the pitch, Benitez knew it would be ideal to claim the points in south London, and ignored the temptation to throw in new goalkeeper Martin Dubravka from the start. Darlow justified that decision for the most part.

The other deadline day recruit, Islam Slimani, missed out with his thigh problem. And with Joselu also sidelined for the trip with a virus, the effectiveness of Newcastle’s lone striker system hinged on whether former Crystal Palace front-man Dwight Gayle could deliver.

Gayle moved around reasonably well all afternoon, without having the presence someone like Slimani or even Mitrovic would. His instinct to shoot led to him being the first Newcastle player to have an effort on target early on.

Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who also had to hold an effort from Ayoze Perez ten minutes later when he flicked Matt Ritchie’s delivery goalwards, was on hand to gather when Gayle controlled and turned in the area to direct at goal.

Palace had the best two chances of those early exchanges and wasted them. Wilfried Zaha couldn’t make the most of being sent clear by Milivojevic first of all, while Darlow did well to thwart Benteke with the second.

Benteke’s was the best. He had been threaded through a pass by Patrick van Aanholt after Jamaal Lascelles had lost possession on half way, but the Palace striker’s shot was turned away by Darlow’s chest.

Those proved crucial because Newcastle had the lead at the break. Hodgson had every right to be annoyed too, having seen Kenedy’s lowly struck corner to the near post bounce through a crowded area to the back post where Diame had wriggled himself into space to convert.

Newcastle, who had Lascelles and Ciaran Clark defending strongly around their own box even if Palace regularly found space down the flanks, had another fantastic chance to extend the lead before half-time too.

Perez’s sublime pass in behind the Palace defence was perfect for Kenedy. The Brazilian cut back round his marker before Hennessey had to dive right and make a strong save. From the rebound Perez’s effort bound for the top corner was plucked out of the air by Hennessey, although an unmarked Shelvey screamed for the pass.

Many expected Darlow to lose his place following Dubravka’s arrival, he still could do, but he was clearly intent on doing everything he could to stay in the side. Before half-time he made a brilliant reaction stop to prevent an equaliser when Zaha’s low shot took a couple of wicked deflections.

After the restart Palace were quick out of the blocks. As soon as Kenedy wasted a good position by delaying his pass to the unmarked Perez too long after a swift counter-attack, the home team had more purpose in their play.

There had already been a couple of scares, with van Aanholt regularly finding space down Yedlin’s flank and it was from a cross into the area that Palace were handed the penalty. Clark stupidly had a little tug at Benteke’s shirt as a ball arrived in the area.

The assistant referee’s flag awarded the penalty and, despite the best efforts of Darlow, Milivojevic’s spot-kick had just enough on it to beat the Newcastle goalkeeper.

After that it was more a case of whether Newcastle could avoid defeat rather than pinch a winner because for a period Clark’s error led to a drop in confidence at the back. Darlow, too, looked more hesitant than he had.

With 20 minutes to go he dropped a Zaha cross too; he was able to recover in time to stop James McArthur from putting Palace ahead. The same midfielder also had an effort from 18 yards fly over, as Newcastle struggled to hold onto a point.

Clark redeemed himself for his earlier woe when he made an incredible block to deny Benteke from hitting a winner in a goalmouth scramble, while referee Andre Marriner could easily have awarded a second penalty when both Shelvey and Clark had hold of shirts.

Christian Atsu did have a late effort that went straight at Hennessey, but Newcastle should be relieved to have left with anything at the end.