Nick Pope ensured Newcastle booked their place in the UEFA Champions League by denying Leicester a priceless win in their bid for Premier League survival.
The Magpies’ £10million summer signing kept out Timothy Castagne’s volley in the second minute of stoppage time for his first save of the game to secure a 0-0 draw on a night when the hosts were banging on the door but unable to find a way through.
Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron were both denied by the woodwork, but a single point was all their side needed to secure their place among the continent’s big boys for the first time in 20 years.
In contrast, Leicester, still two points adrift of safety, head into their final game against West Ham knowing their fate is not in their own hands.
Eddie Howe’s men were cheered on at the final whistle by a crowd of 52,152 to secure Champions League football for just the third time in the club’s history, well ahead of the schedule drawn up by the club’s Saudi-backed owners when they took control in October. 2021.
In some ways it proved to be a frustrating 90 minutes – it could have been more if key midfielder Bruno Guimaraes had seen red rather than yellow for a poor early tackle on Boubakary Soumare – but ultimately the bigger picture mattered.
Howe was forced to make a last-minute change when, after taking part in the warm-up, midfielder Joelinton was unable to start and was replaced by Elliot Anderson.
Any fears that the reshuffle might unsettle his team proved unfounded as they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck amid a party atmosphere at St James’ Park, although Guimaraes was perhaps lucky to escape with only a booking for his studs in the ninth minute. clash with Soumar.
The Magpies dominated possession but were unable to find a telling final ball in the early stages.
Almiron, who made another high-octane start, fired an inside cut from the right and Anderson tested goalkeeper Daniel Iversen with a curling first-time effort.
Alexander Isak saw plenty of the ball down the left but produced a great effort as the Magpies repeatedly piled forward without being able to generate the accuracy needed to betray the pressure.
City tried to hit Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanach long and early, and while they had some success, they met stubborn resistance from Fabian Schar and Sven Botman.
Wilson twice went close to scoring his 19th goal of the season four minutes before the break when he fired a shot onto the post before seeing Wilfred Ndidi clear the follow-up header off the line, while Almiron was similarly denied by the woodwork before Isak headed over. rebound a few seconds later.
Wilson headed in a Kieran Trippier corner in stoppage time after Iversen misjudged the flight to end the half goalless.
James Maddison entered the fray at the break as a replacement for Iheanach, but traffic continued to flow very much towards his side’s goal, with Isak and Almiron threatening from wide, although the Blues’ packed ranks held impressively tight.
Iversen had to turn Isak’s 59th-minute shot over his crossbar and block Sean Longstaff’s 76th-minute drive with his foot, but it was the Foxes who almost grabbed victory at the death when Pope was forced into his first save of the game to keep out Castagne’s volley to stop.