The first of Arsenal's redefined season's objectives is almost achieved. Victory here against an accommodating Newcastle United established a four-point cushion from fifth-placed Everton and, by the time his team host West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, Arsène Wenger may already be guaranteed a crack at a 17th successive season of Champions League football with the FA Cup final still to come. This campaign could yet feel productive.

The mathematics of the run-in dictate that, should Manchester City defeat Everton, then the Londoners are confirmed in the top four with a familiar qualifier ahead. Yet, where Arsenal sauntered to victory, Alan Pardew was left squirming at his own side's latest inadequate performance. A sixth consecutive loss provoked calls for his sacking from the disgruntled away support, with banners unfurled and chants bellowed into the night sky. They are now in open revolt but there was much to encourage Cardiff and Liverpool, the teams Newcastle still have to play, in this feeble display.

This had always seemed like Arsenal's opportunity to restore some breathing space from those who would oust them from the top four, a timely collision with a team whose form has evaporated since the turn of the year.

Newcastle have been safe for too long but, where that would normally merit credit, it has actually affected focus. Their form had deteriorated to the tune of 13 losses in 18 matches in all competitions since the end of December before their arrival in north London.

Injuries have taken their toll but Alan Pardew's absence from the touchline after a seven-game ban for head-butting Hull's David Meyler, in a match they had actually won at a canter, had hardly helped: three points from the possible 21 said it all.

The manager had admitted his frustration at his own indiscipline before kick-off. "We are a team and it is important to have that connection on the sidelines," he had offered, the "connection" in question less with his forehead and more with his team. "I am looking forward to it [being back on the touchline]."

Not that his demeanour suggested as much. He was back prowling his technical area from the outset here, clearly incapable of keeping that pledge, first offered up in the aftermath at the KC Stadium, to sit down, even while the contest was goalless and meandering. He has cut an agitated figure of late and was hardly reassured even by his team's relatively solid opening. This team can implode at any moment.

Their resistance almost stretched to the half-hour mark but, by the interval, the contest appeared concluded with Tim Krul overworked if generally excellent. Arsenal had just started to fret at their inability to prise the visitors apart when Moussa Sissoko pulled back Olivier Giroud to concede a free-kick.

Santi Cazorla's delivery was beautifully arced, bypassing those in the six-yard box, and was poked in by a sliding Laurent Koscielny, darting in behind Sissoko and ahead of the goalkeeper. The goal punctured what resolve the visitors might have mustered after thwarting Arsenal's initial forays. They rather limped to the interval, utterly reliant upon Krul to stave off a thrashing.

Twice Lukas Podolski might have added a second, first fed cleverly by Aaron Ramsey to outpace Vurnon Anita and see his shot deflected behind by Krul, then as he planted a header goalwards from Cazorla's corner which the Dutchman did well to push away. Mikel Arteta was able to clip Giroud clear just before the break for the Frenchman, played onside by his compatriot Mathieu Debuchy, to collect and bear down on goal. His first effort was blocked by Krul, his follow-up again suffocated by the goalkeeper only to fizz across to Mesut Özil, free at the far post and played onside by a sliding Paul Dummett. The German's finish was dispatched almost disdainfully through Debuchy, who had retreated to the goal-line.

Özil's interplay with Cazorla had been menacing, the pair clearly benefiting from the eager work-rate and delivery of Ramsey who has swiftly restored the rhythm to his play that had so driven this side's approach over the first half of the season. How this team must curse the Welshman's prolonged absence through injury from the festive period to the spring.

His tracking back caught the eye as much as his forward-thinking here, with the team so much more assured in his presence. They pinned Newcastle back for long periods, the visitors only finding brief respite on the counter-attack courtesy of long-range attempts from Sissoko and Debuchy before Loic Rémy slipped Yoan Gouffran clear of Koscielny. The angle was unkind, his effort spat at the near-post where Wojciech Szczesny saved.

By then the 2,000 travelling fans were making their disgust plain with furious chants of "it's six in a row", the tally of successive defeats too much for them to take.

That dissent first rang out with half an hour of the game remaining, an indication of the extent of the erosion of faith in this team's powers of recovery. They had morphed into calls for the manager's head long before the end, their calls only choked when Giroud nodded home a third emphatically from Özil's centre.