Geremi hammered the final nail in Newcastle United's title coffin last night as Sir Bobby Robson saw his side's flickering championship flame snuffed out down by the Riverside.

The Cameroon midfielder headed home the winning goal after 62 minutes of an absorbing encounter, rising unchallenged to plant his effort beyond Shay Given's despairing dive from Franck Queudrue's cross.

The defeat, Newcastle's eighth in the Premiership this season, leaves them eight points adrift of leaders Arsenal with just nine fixtures remaining.

More pertinently, perhaps, Manchester United's 2-1 victory over Leeds United yesterday restored the three-point gap between the Old Trafford outfit and the Magpies that had been closed by Saturday's St James' Park win against Chelsea as the clubs chase automatic entry into the first stage of next season's Champions League.

After Olivier Bernard declared Newcastle's intention to give Arsenal "a few sleepless nights", the Gunners would have rested easy last night, safe in the knowledge that, barring a highly unlikely sequence of results, the title race is between themselves and Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

And Newcastle failed to take defeat with good grace as Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Titus Bramble remonstrated with referee Andy D'Urso at the end of a highly-charged match.

Robson's No 2 John Carver had to intervene to bring a halt to the protests that threatened to turn nasty.

With Sir Bobby still angry and upset at the manner in which Boro called off the game when it was due to be played on February 8, the defeat rubs salt into bitter wounds.

But Middlesbrough were worthy winners - their first at home since the Boxing Day defeat of Manchester United - if only because they hustled and harried Newcastle to distraction, never allowing their more illustrious opponents to settle.

Alan Shearer and Bellamy were so well marshalled by Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu that the much-vaunted Magpies strikeforce did not have one clear sight of goal all night.

And at the other end there was Juninho, who teased and tormented a Newcastle team that never got to grips with the World Cup winner. The Brazilian was forever probing for an opening, showing admirable fitness levels as he came through the full 90 minutes on his first start since June.

All three bookings last night came about after fouls on Juninho, who was infinitely more productive than on his Premiership return against Everton on Saturday.

Early on, however, his efforts foundered on a Newcastle defence that is made of sterner stuff these days, the aberrations at Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers now firmly at the back of the mind.

Titus Bramble finally resembles the player that Robson paid £5m for in the summer, and he rattled Juninho with a crunching challenge after just four minutes.

Indeed, Newcastle were hell-bent on giving the impish playmaker a physical welcome to the derby as he tried to inject a little invention to the helter-skelter of this Tees-Tyne encounter.

Gary Speed twice felled Juninho inside the first 14 minutes, and D'Urso lectured the Wales international after his second robust challenge.

Dyer and Jermaine Jenas also appeared to be under strict instructions not to let the 29-year-old settle in possession as he carried all of Middlesbrough's hopes on his slender frame.

One magical piece of Juninho skill almost set Massimo Maccarone clear, but the World Cup winner was being kept on a tight rein by a Newcastle side that knew he represented the hosts' best chance of forcing an unlikely victory.

Juninho did lure an injudicious challenge out of Bernard that earned the defender a booking and Middlesbrough a free-kick 20 yards from the Newcastle goal, but Geremi's effort was blocked and the hapless Maccarone hit the loose ball well off target.

So, Boro were struggling to test Given, but his opposite number Mark Schwarzer was similarly underemployed as the Magpies, and Laurent Robert in particular, failed to provide the service that Shearer and Bellamy crave.

Dyer screwed two good openings tamely wide, while Jonathan Woodgate just failed to turn home Robert's corner as the visitors were forced to feed on scraps.

Middlesbrough looked secure at the back with Ehiogu back in harness alongside Southgate, who was using every last drop of his experience to neutralise the threat posed by the jet-heeled Bellamy.

Worryingly for the Magpies, Juninho was starting to exert more of an influence on proceedings as Boro grew in confidence, clearly satisfied that they had blunted Newcastle's attacking thrust.

One clever Juninho through ball found Maccarone in space but Aaron Hughes reacted smartly to deflect the Italian's effort out of harm's way.

Eventually, Newcastle cracked, though Juninho was just a peripheral figure as Middlesbrough took the lead, much to the delight of the majority of the fans crammed into the Riverside as they set a stadium attendance record.

Queudrue's pinpoint centre from the left dropped into space near Bramble, and Geremi directed his eight-yard header inside the far post.

Rather than Newcastle striking back immediately, the goal precipitated a spell of further Middlesbrough pressure, and Stuart Parnaby wasted a glorious chance to double his side's lead three minutes later when he blazed over from 15 yards.

Newcastle were rocking, and Bramble was booked for a lunge at Juninho borne of pure frustration as Boro turned the screw.

The introduction of Hugo Viana and Shola Ameobi failed to galvanise the visitors as Bernard spurned their best opportunity, drilling a low shot just wide from 15 yards. And as Dyer smashed an ambitious 30-yard drive well over the crossbar in stoppage time, Newcastle's hopes of salvaging anything from this game - and forcing their way into the title picture - went with it.

Result: Middlesbrough 1 Newscatle United 0.