Newcastle United have secured their Premier League status with one game to play. It is not an eventuality that anybody could have anticipated at the end of last season, when the team finished fifth, or, indeed, felt worthy of the lusty celebrations that followed the full-time whistle in west London.
It has been a deeply frustrating season for Alan Pardew and the club but at least it will pass without the ultimate indignity. This might have edged closer had they lost to a Queens Park Rangers team who already possessed no hope and, arguably more depressingly, had José Bosingwa back in the starting XI. The full-back had refused to sit on the substitutes' bench against Fulham last December and, although he has featured since, he entered nightmarish new territory with this performance which, mercifully, was cut short by his half-time substitution.
Newcastle had felt the demons circle when Loïc Rémy, whom they had been close to signing from Marseille in January, put QPR in front with a disputed penalty following Mathieu Debuchy's foul on Junior Hoilett, which appeared to have been outside the area. The tightness and tension were so marked in Newcastle's early play that Pardew said it felt as though "we had a noose around our necks".
Their fortune, though, was to encounter a QPR side which will need major and complicated surgery if they are to survive in the Championship next season, let alone dream of a swift return to the Premier League. If Bosingwa was culpable in both of the Newcastle goals, then few others mustered anything of reputation-enhancing note. "That team will not finish in the top half of the Championship," Harry Redknapp, the manager, said. "They have not got the quality. It's a fact."
Newcastle were not great and they gave a flash of their long-established ability to make life more difficult than it ought to be when the goalkeeper Rob Elliot, already booked for unsporting behaviour, received a second yellow card on 80 minutes for handling the ball outside his area.
Pardew complained that there was "no way the linesman could have seen whether he was in or out", and it was extremely tight, but that overlooked Elliot's foolishness in giving the officials a decision to make. He could easily have headed clear.
QPR flickered at the end through Bobby Zamora and Andros Townsend but, really, they went with a whimper and it was easy to conclude that Newcastle's vital victory owed plenty to them being less bad than the home side. With Wigan Athletic still to play Aston Villa, one of those two will not now be able to overhaul Newcastle. Pardew reflected afterwards on the sapping demands of the Europa League – in which he made mistakes in selection – injuries and his inability to name his best side on more than "three occasions".
He said: "My best team is a top-eight team. My overriding emotion was that we didn't have enough quality in depth."
The relief was palpable. "This was a very important game for the football club, especially with the extra finances with regard to staying in the Premier League," Pardew added. "We showed a resilience. It's massive for the club."
The afternoon had featured the PR stunt of the QPR players' player of the season award going to the fans, but they turned on Bosingwa, who surely cannot have voted for them. The Portuguese defender had made a saving challenge in the 17th minute to thwart Yohan Cabaye from Yoan Gouffran's cross but he immediately undid the good work with the needless tug inside the area on Hatem Ben Arfa that precipitated Lee Probert's second letter-of-the-law penalty award. Ben Arfa lashed the kick into a top corner.
Pardew said that he had heard grumbling in the stands from Bosingwa's first pass, but after Papiss Cissé's header past Rob Green was ruled out for a borderline offside call, the QPR scapegoat blundered again to bring down the tide of opprobrium. Bosingwa's backpass to Green was nervous and short; Jonás Gutiérrez charged in to block the goalkeeper's clearance and when the ball spun to Gouffran, he volleyed into the empty net from 20 yards. The QPR support howled, telling Bosingwa that they did not want him at their club and urging Redknapp to substitute him. "You cannot play when there is that negativity in place," the manager said. "He didn't make the mistakes on purpose. I'm not blaming him entirely."
Newcastle would have been more comfortable in the second half if Gutiérrez's close-range header not been cleared off the line by the substitute Shaun Derry, and the red card led to jangling nerves. Newcastle, though, had done enough.
Man of the match Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)