Ridgewell concedes a penalty in the scramble at St James' Park
By Saj Chowdhury
Goals from Shola Ameobi and Steven Taylor gave Newcastle victory over 10-man Birmingham, who remain perilously close to the Premier League drop zone.
Ameobi scored from the spot after Liam Ridgewell was sent off by referee Chris Foy for using his arm to clear Fabricio Coloccini's goalbound header.
Taylor then made it 2-0 when he headed in Joey Barton's corner.
Lee Bowyer pulled one back before half-time with a deflected shot while Seb Larsson scooped over late on.
Had Swedish midfielder Larsson tucked that away for the visitors, it would have greatly eased the Carling Cup winners' relegation worries. As things stand though, Blues cannot afford to lose their last two matches - at home to Fulham on 15 May then away to Tottenham on 22 May - with only three points separating them from the drop zone.
Following a rather tepid first 30 minutes, few would have put money on the chances of seeing a goal, never mind three, before the half-time whistle.
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Pressed into action by the home crowd chanting "attack, attack, attack", Newcastle created the first credible chance of the match when Barton's 25-yard low shot had to be pushed wide of his right-hand post by visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Foster was magnificent at St James' Park. The England keeper saved brilliantly to deny a close-range drilled effort from Peter Lovenkrands before somehow pushing over Kevin Nolan's powerful strike.
Foster was close to saving Ameobi's penalty but the precision of the strike into the right-hand corner beat him. It was the striker's ninth of the season.
Ridgewell was sent off for a his part in the build-up after he appeared to handle the ball twice in an attempt to clear Coloccini's header.
The Birmingham defender looked on in disbelief as Foy pointed to the spot and produced a red card. The visitors were down to 10 men and were soon 2-0 behind when Taylor, in for the injured Mike Williamson, powered in Barton's right-wing corner from 10 yards.
The Magpies were in cruise control but were given a jolt just before half-time when former player Bowyer scored.
Coloccini failed to deal with a long punt from Foster allowing Cameron Jerome to make a beeline for Tim Krul's goal. The Argentine defender made amends by blocking the striker's drive but could not prevent Bowyer's follow-up from deflecting off his leg and flying in.
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The home side were a little more edgy after the interval and there must have been palpitations among the players and their fans when Bowyer found his way into the area again only for his shot to take a deflection which took the sting out of it.
Larsson then should have taken advantage of Krul's inability to cling on to Jean Beausejour's cross when he fired the loose ball over the bar.
Newcastle also went close when substitute Nile Ranger cut in from the left and forced another great save from Foster before Roger Johnson cleared Ameobi's effort off the line.
But the two first half strikes proved to be enough for Newcastle manager Alan Pardew and his side, who are set for a comfortable mid-table finish.
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