Newcastle United returned to the Championship summit after a Chris Morgan own goal condemned Sheffield United to a fourth successive loss.
The injury-ravaged Blades enjoyed the better first-half chances with Darius Henderson and Ched Evans going close.
After the break, Newcastle's Kevin Nolan had a shot tipped over before Ryan Taylor's fizzing effort broke the deadlock via Morgan's boot.
Newcastle survived as Steve Harper's arm kept out a late Henderson header.
Arriving at Bramall Lane after two defeats in three games, Newcastle boss Chris Hughton would have been desperate to reignite their league campaign, particularly having only just signed a new full-time contract.
But it was the hosts, missing nine senior players with injury, who looked more like high-fliers in the opening half hour - superior in possession and more dangerous on the break.
Henderson dragged a shot wide inside the first two minutes and the lively striker then set up Keith Treacy who blazed over.
Apart from a weak Ryan Taylor volley from 12 yards, Newcastle looked short of ideas and they were lucky not to concede with the final kick of the opening period when Evans shot inches wide.
After the break, events turned against Kevin Blackwell's men, who are now without a league win in seven matches and are slipping towards the wrong end of the table.
First, the dazzling Jose Enrique slipped the ball into Nolan on the left, though his curling shot was well saved by Ian Bennett, before Andy Carroll's towering header hit the post.
Shortly after, Kyle Walker was felled by Nolan and Taylor fired the loose ball goalwards from 25 yards. It took a deflection off Morgan and wrong-footed Bennett to find the left-hand corner.
Sheffield United were incensed as the celebrations continued with Walker still lying on the ground, but the referee appeared to be correct in not halting play.
The superb Carroll almost doubled the lead with a wayward volley over the bar after a Nicky Butt punt.
But the Blades hit back and it was the body of Harper - almost every part of him - that prevented an equaliser with three separate incidents in the dying minutes.
Henderson's toe-poke from six yards was drilled into the keeper's tummy, his legs then stopped Treacy's low shot and with the last action of the game, Henderson saw his point-blank header palmed around the post.
Newcastle manager Chris Hughton: "It was an ugly win. Sheffield play a style which makes it difficult. You have to be strong and resilient.
"For the majority of the game I thought we handled everything they threw at us. We've just got to make sure we keep up the performances and stay where we are."
Sheffield United boss Kevin Blackwell on the own goal: "It sums it up. We were fabulous. It was a foul on Kyle Walker and then it goes in off Morgan.
"I thought we were the better side by a mile. That was top class in every respect - there wasn't much wrong. I'm proud of the players."
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