THE Premier League relegation battle is a scene of considerable chaos. West Ham United? A club tearing itself apart. West Bromwich Albion? Surely down and out after a run of one win from the last 29 league games. Stoke and Crystal Palace? Teams that cannot buy a win. Southampton? Careering headlong towards oblivion with barely the semblance of a fight.

So much of that will be familiar to followers of Newcastle United. Off-field angst, unpopular owners, defensive capitulations, players that don’t care, a seemingly endless winless run overseen by Alan Pardew. It’s as if all the teams at the bottom of the Premier League have been reading the St James’ Park play-book from the last few years.

In most other seasons, Newcastle would be right in the thick of it. Few clubs do self-destruction as effectively or frequently as the Magpies. Yet with eight games of the season to go, a strange sense of calm has settled over Tyneside.

Admittedly, the job is not yet done. Saturday’s ruthless dismantling of Southampton lifted Newcastle five points clear of the drop zone, but they will probably need to win at least two of their remaining matches to be sure of remaining in the top-flight next season. Unlike so many of their rivals, though, they look capable of achieving that with a minimum of fuss.

This is a Newcastle side that has been purged of the failings that plagued so many of its predecessors. There are no inflated egos in this team, no self-styled superstars putting their own aspirations above the requirements of their team-mates.

As former Magpie Jermaine Jenas rightly observed on Match of the Day on Saturday night, the tone for their latest win at the weekend was set from the very first challenge when Jamaal Lascelles effortlessly outjumped Guido Carrilo to power the ball back into the Southampton half. Effort, desire, commitment. A captain determined to lead by example.

From that point on, the rest of his team-mates followed suit. Whether it was the unheralded Paul Dummett diligently holding the defensive line, or the equally underrated Mo Diame snapping into challenges at the heart of midfield, this was a Newcastle side doing the simple things extremely well.

The contrast to Southampton’s lackadaisical approach was stark, and for all that the Magpies played some fine attacking football as they claimed their joint-biggest win of the season, their success was built on the bedrock of the spirit and sense of duty that Rafael Benitez has successfully instilled since promotion was secured last May. That, and the tactical clarity that Benitez has brought to bear this season.

Plenty of people have derided Newcastle as a ‘Championship team playing in the Premier League’. In many ways, they are. Yet as the club’s past experiences have proved, it’s one thing having a host of star names in your starting line-up, it’s quite another to get them functioning effectively as part of a team.

“The one thing we have is confidence in our team,” said Benitez, whose only league defeats since the turn of the year have come at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool. “We work really hard, and we are doing well.

“We are confident in the system we play, and in each other. Everything was perfect here because of the commitment of the players, and the work rate, which was fantastic. Then also with the way that we were playing.”

Eight members of Saturday’s starting line-up were regulars in the Championship last season, and Benitez deserves huge credit for coaxing a marked improvement out of so many of his players. Lascelles, DeAndre Yedlin, Dummett and Diame in particular have come on in leaps and bounds this season, and their progress clearly says much about Benitez’s abilities as a coach.

Yet for all that the last two transfer windows have largely been interpreted as a disaster, it is also worth noting that two January signings played a pivotal role in Newcastle’s latest win.

At one end of the field, Martin Dubravka was the epitome of poise and assurance as he claimed his second clean sheet in a Newcastle shirt.

At the other, Kenedy produced his best performance since moving to Tyneside from Chelsea as he claimed a first-half brace that effectively settled the game as a contest.

From the minute the transfer window opened at the start of January, Benitez was adamant that he wanted a goalkeeper, a winger and a striker. He didn’t quite get the latter, with Islam Slimani’s thigh injury still keeping him in the treatment room, but he secured the first two targets on his list and his judgement has proved impeccable. Just imagine what he could do if he was ever given some real money to spend.

“Both Dubravka and Kenedy have proved one thing,” said Benitez.

“The scouting department is working hard and well. We are monitoring some players, and sometimes you get it wrong because everybody makes mistakes, but both players have made a big difference.

“The keeper is giving confidence to the defenders, and Kenedy’s delivery and passes are also giving confidence to the offensive players.”

He could have been forgiven for adding, ‘I told you so’. For all that it is possible to derive satisfaction from Newcastle’s achievements this season, it is hard not to wonder what might have been attainable had Benitez been afforded the kind of spending power that was showered on some of his predecessors, or squandered by so many of Newcastle’s rivals in the bottom half of the table.

Kenedy has proved an extremely astute acquisition, with his pace and technical ability making him an upgrade on the player he has replaced in the team, Christian Atsu.

He broke the deadlock within 63 seconds of the kick-off against Southampton, controlling Jonjo Shelvey’s floated through ball on his chest before swivelling to fire a low finish into the bottom right-hand corner.

Dwight Gayle was unable to convert a couple of decent chances to double Newcastle’s lead, but the striker nevertheless played a pivotal role in Kenedy’s second shortly before the half-hour mark.

Ayoze Perez charged more than 50 yards before teeing up Gayle, he squared the ball across the area for Kenedy, and the Brazilian tapped home.

A third goal arrived three minutes before the hour mark, with Shelvey rolling the ball into Matt Ritchie’s path to enable the Scotsman to sweep home a first-time finish.