By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at the Britannia Stadium
Andy Carroll earned Alan Shearer his first - and potentially priceless - point as Newcastle United manager when he came off the bench to head a late equaliser at relegation rivals Stoke City.
Abdoulaye Faye's first half header, scored after referee Chris Foy had awarded Stoke a highly-debatable corner, looked to have given Tony Pulis' side a vital win and pushed Newcastle closer to the Premier League trapdoor.
But Carroll rescued a draw for Newcastle when he lofted a header over Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen from Damien Duff's cross with nine minutes left.
Stoke will be frustrated they failed to turn long periods of supremacy into three points, with Newcastle keeper Steve Harper saving well from Ricardo Fuller and both Glenn Whelan and Faye having efforts cleared off the line.
Shearer, however, will simply be grateful to get his first point on the board after taking over troubled Newcastle until the end of the season and starting his reign with a defeat at home to Chelsea - although the Magpies remain in the bottom three in the table.
A point was not the ideal outcome for either side in a game that will be remembered more for the incredible noise and passion that swirled around the Britannia Stadium for the entire 90 minutes rather than any quality produced by either side.
We showed character - Shearer
But the applause from Stoke's fans at the final whistle suggested they believe a draw edges them another vital step towards safety.
And as Shearer took the acclaim from Newcastle's vast travelling following as he made his way to the dressing room, he may just have fierce rivals Sunderland in his sights as the best hope of avoiding the drop in the wake of their latest defeat, at home to Manchester United.
Newcastle lost striker Obafemi Martins to a groin strain hours before kick-off - leaving Shearer to pair Shola Ameobi with Michael Owen up front.
The atmosphere inside the Britannia Stadium was as vibrant and hostile as ever, but was not matched on the pitch until Stoke went ahead in contentious circumstances after 33 minutes.
Referee Foy incorrectly awarded Stoke a corner after the ball clearly came off Ricardo Fuller as opposed to Newcastle defender Habib Beye.
Given Newcastle's plight, there was almost an air of inevitability about the eventual outcome as Faye escaped marker Ameobi to power a header past keeper Harper from Liam Lawrence's corner.
And Newcastle almost suffered in similar fashion on the stroke of half-time when Fuller met another Lawrence corner, only for Harper to make an instinctive block. Stoke appealed for handball against Sebastien Bassong in the ensuing melee, but referee Foy waved away their claims.
Faye scored against his former club
Stoke striker James Beattie finished the half with his head swathed in bandages after a clash with Bassong, but he was able to resume after the break to the noisy appreciation of the home fans.
And they had more to enjoy in the opening moments of the second half when Fuller drove into the penalty and, with Harper out of position, crossed for Whelan, but his header was smuggled off the line.
Ryan Taylor then blocked on the line from Faye at the far post as Stoke tried to press home their advantage.
The stakes were high for both sides - and tempers threatened to boil over after Andy Wilkinson flattened Danny Guthrie, sparking angry exchanges involving players from both sides.
Referee Foy moved to calm the situation down, with Wilkinson receiving a yellow card for his initial tackle on Guthrie.
It was Guthrie's final contribution and he was replaced by Jonas Gutierrez after 62 minutes as Shearer attempted to inject some impetus into his lifeless side.
We dominated the game - Pulis
Newcastle created a half-chance when Ameobi headed over, but it was a rare foray into enemy territory by a side in desperate need of ideas as time ran out.
Stoke almost hit Newcastle with a swift counter attack in the 69th minutes to grab a vital second goal. Fuller released Lawrence on the right, and when his pass picked out the unmarked Matthew Etherington in the area, he drove across Harper but narrowly wide.
With 13 minutes remaining, substitute Carroll, on for Ameobi, rose to meet Gutierrez's cross at the far post, but could not find the target, much to the anguish of Shearer.
It was a signal that Newcastle were finally exerting pressure, and they were rewarded with the equaliser after 81 minutes.
Ironically for Stoke, it all started with a Newcastle long throw that was not cleared, leaving Duff to cross for Carroll to send a looping header over keeper Thomas Sorensen and send the travelling Toon Army into ecstasy.
The impetus was with Newcastle in the closing stages, although Danny Pugh fired narrowly wide, but both sides were left to settle for a point at the end of a frantic encounter that typified the tensions involved in the fight to stay in the Premier League.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis:
"For two thirds of the game we completely dominated.
"We had the best chances and were down their throats. If we scored a second after going ahead we would have won it.
"The last quarter of the match isn't a fair reflection of the game. Today we did not sit back and wait for Newcastle to come at us we had a go."
Newcastle boss Alan Shearer:
"I thought we showed great character to bounce back, equalise and then take the game to Stoke.
"I told Andy in midweek that he had a big part to play.
"I also told him he had to show hunger and desire - he did and then got a point for us by scoring."
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