SO near, yet so far. Newcastle’s injury-ravaged side came within two minutes of claiming what would have been a thoroughly-deserved win over Everton, only to concede a penalty that could have serious repercussions for their hopes of playing European football next season.

Paul Dummett dragged Ashley Young to the floor, Dominic Calvert-Lewin stepped up to fire past Martin Dubravka, and 88 minutes of effort and resilience from the Magpies was undone in an instant.

A return of four points from two matches in the space of four days is hardly a disaster, and perhaps being pegged back last night merely evens things up after Newcastle turned things around so remarkably against West Ham at the weekend.

Nevertheless, with just eight more games to play, this felt like a missed opportunity given the Magpies’ overall dominance for much of the evening. Leading through Alexander Isak’s brilliantly-taken 15th-minute opener, Eddie Howe’s came close to doubling their lead as Isak had another effort blocked on the goalline and Dan Burn saw a second-half effort chalked off for the closest of offsides.

Admittedly, Everton struck the post through substitute James Garner before equalising, but Newcastle’s makeshift defence was holding firm pretty effectively before Calvert-Lewin fired home from the spot. Burn and Fabian Schar were especially impressive, aided by Emil Krafth and Lewis Hall, who were pressed into action in the full-back berths.

At some stage, Newcastle United’s injury situation will begin to ease. The way things are going, though, that could easily be halfway through next season. Not only has Jamaal Lascelles joined Sven Botman on the list of ACL victims that means both players face up to nine months on the sidelines, Tino Livramento and Miguel Almiron also suffered weekend injuries that will rule them out of action for around a month. To make matters worse, Kieran Trippier’s potential comeback date has also been moved back to the end of this month.

The building work at Newcastle’s training ground remains ongoing – perhaps the club should be installing a hospital wing rather than a new state-of-the-art gym.

The make-up of last night’s backline provided a graphic illustration of just how bad things have become. Krafth started the season as Newcastle’s third-choice right-back, but was there in the back four. On the opposite flank, Hall made only his second league start since joining the Magpies from Chelsea in the summer, with Burn shuffled infield to partner Schar at centre-half. As has been the case for almost all of the season, the bench was even more threadbare, comprising two goalkeepers, two veteran full-backs, four completely untried youngsters and Joe Willock. To say things are stretched is a major understatement.

Thank goodness, then, for Isak. The Swedish striker has had injury issues of his own this season, but whenever he has been available, he has spearheaded the Newcastle attack superbly. While Everton’s defence stood up reasonably well for long periods of the game, they instantly became vulnerable whenever Isak was in possession. As was the case as the Magpies claimed the lead just 15 minutes in.

Isak still had an awful lot to do when Harvey Barnes’ floated through ball sent him galloping away down the inside-left channel, but with an elegant simplicity, he made the seemingly tricky look effortless. Having taken possession, he cut inside Jarrad Branthwaite to open up a shooting opportunity, and as players began to congregate around him, he stroked a brilliant low finish into the bottom corner. Jordan Pickford, booed mercilessly throughout because of his Wearside connections, had no chance.

It was Isak’s third goal in the space of three days, and his tenth in his last 12 domestic matches. While everything else has been unravelling around him, Isak’s class and composure have been welcome constants. It goes without saying that holding onto him this summer must be an absolute priority.

Last night’s opener came after Everton had created a couple of decent openings of their own, Abdoulaye Doucoure blazing over after Dwight McNeil pulled the ball back and James Tarkowski also failing to find the target with a header from McNeil’s floated free-kick.

Sean Dyche’s visitors went into the game on the back of 12 games without a victory – their worst run since 1994 – and Newcastle’s opener seemed to rock their understandably fragile confidence.

Their task would have become even more difficult had Jacob Murphy not fired over after driving towards the edge of the area shortly before the half-hour mark, or had Pickford not made a fine stop to keep out another effort from Murphy that found the target after Hall crossed from the left.

However, for all that Newcastle’s makeshift back four might have been untested, Schar and Burn were never really going to be unduly threatened by the somewhat ungainly Beto. Similarly, while there might have been question marks over Hall’s defensive capabilities prior to kick-off, he more than answered them against the ageing Ashley Young.

That said, Newcastle still needed a second goal to feel completely comfortable, and it almost arrived from an unlikely source within four minutes of the restart.

A corner from the left resulted in a scramble in Everton’s six-yard box, and as he hooked out a foot to attempt to clear, Toffees defender James Tarkowski only succeeded in prodding the ball against his own post.

Nine minutes later, and Newcastle thought they had their second goal, only for VAR to intervene. Having been on the wrong end of a quick free-kick against West Ham at the weekend, the Magpies turned the tables as Murphy’s sharp thinking from a set-piece enabled Isak to break down the left.

The striker slid over a low cross to enable Burn to stroke home, but a review showed he had broken clear of Everton’s back four marginally too early and was an inch or two offside.

Within seconds of the goal being ruled out, Dyche opted for a triple change, and one of his substitutes, Garner, almost made an instant impact. Within six minutes of being on the pitch, the midfielder created a pocket of space on the corner of the 18-yard box, but while his low, curled shot beat Martin Dubravka, the ball rebounded off the base of the right-hand post.

Suddenly, the game was end to end, and Everton were indebted to Vitaliy Mykolenko for a superb headed clearance that kept them in the game. Isak thought he had scored when he prodded goalwards after Barnes cut the ball back from the left, but a backtracking Mykolenko nodded clear from just in front of the goalline.

Dubravka saved from Young; Pickford saved from Murphy. It was every bit as breathless as the second half of Saturday’s thrilling win over West Ham had been.

Then, just as Newcastle looked to be seeing things out, the game’s decisive moment arrived. Dummett had only been on the pitch for six minutes when he found himself up against Young, trying to deal with a cross from the left-hand side.

His tussle with the Everton winger ended with him putting his arms around his opponent’s neck and dragging him to the floor. The offence was initially missed by referee, Tony Harrington, but a recommendation for a touchline review was only going to have one outcome.

Sure enough, once Harrington went to his screen, a penalty was awarded, and while Dubravka got a hand to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s spot-kick, he was unable to keep the ball out.