NEWCASTLE'S unbeaten start to the season came crashing to an end at the hands of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

The Magpies slumped to a 3-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium and therefore missed out on the chance to establish a club record for the longest ever unbeaten start to a league campaign.

They were the architects of their own downfall to a large extent, conceding two penalties that were converted by Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero.

Micah Richards also found the target before the break, profiting from another error from Ryan Taylor, but Newcastle did at least claim a consolation goal of their own with one minute left courtesy of substitute Dan Gosling.

Despite taking on a City side who had swept all before them in the opening three months of the season, Newcastle performed admirably for the majority of the first half.

Tim Krul was forced into an excellent save to tip a Balotelli header over the crossbar, but the opening 40 minutes saw the hosts struggle to break down a well-drilled Magpies rearguard.

Indeed, Joe Hart was forced into a fine stop of his own to turn Demba Ba's low strike around the post, and the Frenchman will have been frustrated at his failure to find the target with a free header from a Yohan Cabaye corner.

Nevertheless, with half-time approaching, Newcastle will have been satisfied with their efforts. Three minutes later, however, and they were two goals behind.

The first came from the spot, with Balotelli rolling home after Ryan Taylor was penalised for blocking a Yaya Toure shot with his arm.

The second followed almost immediately, and again Ryan Taylor was at fault. The full-back should have dealt with Aguero's through ball, but his first touch was poor and his second was blocked by Richards, who nonchalantly slotted past Tim Krul.

City went close again at the start of the second half, but while Aguero's one-two with Samir Nasri unlocked the Newcastle back four, a back-tracking Steven Taylor cleared the Argentinian's shot off the line.

It wasn't as though the second period was just about damage limitation from a Newcastle perspective, however, and Alan Pardew's side almost clawed their way back into the game on the hour mark.

An error from City skipper Vincent Kompany presented the ball to Hatem Ben Arfa, but after driving into the area, the Frenchman rolled a shot off the base of the left-hand post.

That was as close as Newcastle came, and any hopes of an unlikely comeback were quashed once and for all with 19 minutes left as City converted their second penalty of the afternoon.

Ben Arfa bundled over the overlapping Richards and, with Balotelli having been substituted, Aguero rolled the spot-kick past Krul.

Newcastle continued to plug away though, and they at least got on to the scoresheet in the 89th minute. Ba broke free of the City defence, and while Hart smothered his shot, Gosling was on hand to prod the rebound into an open goal.

MAN CITY (4-2-3-1): Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; de Jong, Y Toure (Barry 84); Milner, Aguero (Johnson 76), Nasri; Balotelli (Silva 69).

Subs (not used): Pantilimon (gk), K Toure, Kolarov, Dzeko.

NEWCASTLE (4-4-1-1): Krul; Simpson, S Taylor, Coloccini, R Taylor; Sammy Ameobi (Gosling 78), Guthrie, Cabaye (Perch 85), Gutierrez; Ben Arfa (Lovenkrands 76); Ba.

Subs (not used): Elliot (gk), Santon, Smith, Shola Ameobi.