Joao Pedro snatched a priceless victory from Newcastle’s grasp as Watford struck late to deny them a foothold in the fight for Premier League survival.
The Portuguese frontman headed the Hornets level three minutes from time to stun the locals among a crowd of 52,223 at St James’ Park and claim a 1-1 draw.
Eddie Howe’s men, who had £25million signing Chris Wood among their number for the first time, looked to have won it through Allan Saint-Maximin’s superb 49th-minute strike, but they retreated as the visitors sought a way back into the game and ultimately were made to pay for their passivity.
Newcastle started with real tempo as Sean Longstaff forced an early corner and Saint-Maximin sent a dangerous ball across the six-yard box, although Emmanuel Dennis passed up a promising opportunity for the visitors when he drilled a sixth-minute free-kick straight into the defensive wall after Jonjo Shelvey had been booked for a trip on Juraj Kucka.
The Magpies were denied by the crossbar after Joelinton had flicked Ryan Fraser’s deflected 11th-minute cross towards goal, but they were spared four minutes later when, after Saint-Maximin had squandered possession on halfway, Josh King fired into the side-netting from Pedro’s through-ball.
Joelinton volleyed wide at the far post after Fraser and Longstaff had worked a short corner and Wood sent a looping header over from another Fraser cross, with the home side exerting the more consistent pressure.
The New Zealand international was unable to hit the target once again after Jamaal Lascelles had headed Kieran Trippier’s 24th-minute corner towards goal and Fabian Schar failed to work goalkeeper Ben Foster when he got his head to Trippier’s inviting free-kick seven minutes later.