The pre-match discussion had been about the absence of one goalkeeper and there would be plenty of questions afterwards over Hugo Lloris' non-appearance for Tottenham Hotspur. But for 90 minutes this gripping Premier League encounter was dominated by another goalkeeper, with Tim Krul making the impossible seem possible at times and almost single-handedly inspiring Newcastle United to victory.
The second half came to resemble a siege, with Tottenham committing numbers forward and creating openings, and Newcastle struggling to escape their half. But Tottenham simply could not beat Krul. In the Dutchman's own words, it was the finest performance of his career.
He made two wonderful saves in the first half to deny Roberto Soldado and Paulinho and his excellence was underlined early in the second half. Having thwarted Christian Eriksen, he pulled off what amounted toa triple save to keep out Gylfi Sigurdsson's deflected free-kick and then the substitute Younès Kaboul's two rebounds at close quarters before Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa scrambled to safety.
It was an act of defiance that beggared belief and the die seemed to be cast. Tottenham could try anything and they would not score. Krul did not miss a beat and the home team knew that it would not be their day when Jan Vertonghen's 84th-minute header crashed against the crossbar.
Tottenham's scoring woes continue – they have nine goals in 11 league matches (three of them penalties) but this was not a bad performance from them, at least not in the second half. The boos at full-time from the home crowd were motivated by frustration rather than anger.
The sting for Tottenham had come in the early concession to Loïc Rémy and the question, which cannot be answered, as to whether Lloris, who was stood down on medical advice in the wake of his head injury at Everton the previous Sunday, might have done better than his replacement, Brad Friedel, who was slow to leave his line after Yoan Gouffran had won possession from Paulinho and released Rémy.
André Villas-Boas argued strongly that Friedel was not at fault, although Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, said that his team had "capitalised on what we thought was a little weakness on their part". He did not say whether he meant the goalkeeper or the positioning of the Tottenham central defenders, who can leave spaces in behind them.
Rémy rounded Friedel and while the American got a touch to the ball, it was not enough to foil the striker, who tucked away his seventh league goal in eight starts for the club. It had been advertised. Moments earlier, Rémy had streaked on to a through-ball from the outstanding Yohan Cabaye only to be put off by the covering Vlad Chiriches.
Tottenham's defensive line was fragile in the early running and they struggled for offensive rhythm throughout the first half. And yet they would have been level at the interval but for Krul. He rated the flying save that he made to repel Soldado's flicked header as his best but the one that followed from Paulinho's top corner-bound drive cannot have been too far behind. He also turned away Eriksen's pot-shot. And all of this was with the bright sun in his eyes.
Krul's heroics were just beginning. Tottenham raised the intensity in the second half and Eriksen looked certain to score after a flowing move. Krul, though, denied him with his feet from 12 yards. On the touchline, Villas-Boas mouthed one word: "Wow."
He was still more incredulous when Krul made the showpiece save. So was everybody inside the stadium. Even after all of the replays, it remained something of a mystery as to how the ball had stayed out. Sigurdsson's free-kick deflected heavily off Cheick Tioté but Krul changed direction, threw out a hand and saved. In came Kaboul but, from point-blank range, Krul got up to block from him twice before Yanga-Mbiwa hooked clear from in front of the line.
The pattern became established. Tottenham pushing , desperate to soothe the nerves of their fans; Newcastle putting bodies on the line in defence. Pardew sent on Vurnon Anita, an extra midfielder, while Villas-Boas introduced Jermain Defoe, a second striker.
There were mutterings from the home crowd when Soldado blasted one chance wide and headed another at Krul, after Andros Townsend had seen a shot parried. Townsend also tested Krul from distance while the goalkeeper denied Paulinho again.
Villas-Boas complained that the result was unfair, although he acknowledged: "We have to look at ourselves and recognise that our first half was very poor."
For Newcastle, the pain of the derby defeat by Sunderland has been overtaken by the home win over Chelsea and now this. The visiting hordes rejoiced at full-time as Newcastle's players made for Krul to embrace him. It was an afternoon when nothing would pass.
Man of the match: Tim Krul (Newcastle)