Never has a Premier League side had to wait longer for their first league win of the season than Sheffield United who had gone 17 games without a victory to their name.
Just 2 points from a possible 51 marked the worst ever start to a top flight season, which is remarkable for the team that sat 5th in the table this time last year.
Chris Wilder’s men were the league’s least efficient attack and the third joint leakiest defence coming into Tuesday’s game but did enter it off the back of a 3-2 FA Cup win away to Bristol Rovers.
They faced a Newcastle side not in the best run of form themselves and without a win in seven games in all competitions.
Nevertheless Steve Bruce’s men would’ve seen this game as a good opportunity to get back to winning ways against a side who had only previously taken a point off of Fulham and Brighton.
But it was Sheffield United who started firmly on the front foot and looked the more threatening from the off.
David McGoldrick was played through after some lovely quick football inside 15 minutes but had his shot from an angle stopped well by Karl Darlow.
The Blades continued to be the dominant side but Newcastle almost scored a goal out of nowhere when Callum Wilson put a glorious chance over the bar with his headed effort.
Just moments later, David McGoldrick had a fantastic opportunity at the other end and would really have felt he should’ve scored as he met Ampadu’s cross but nodded right back across the face of goal.
Fifteen minutes later came a flurry of excellent Sheffield United chances but two fine pieces of defending from Federico Fernandez and a good diving stop from Karl Darlow kept the Blades out.
And as if the first half wasn’t bad enough for the Magpies, it got even worse on the stroke of half time as Ryan Fraser, who had just returned from a groin injury, picked up two yellow cards in a matter of minutes for unnecessary fouls.
The hosts would’ve enjoyed a far more positive half time team talk than their opponents but all that was missing from the Blades’ performance was a goal.
The ten men of Newcastle were set up deeper in the second half, understandably tasked with keeping Chris Wilder’s men at arms length.
The Blades continued to push for the opener in the second half and went close just after the break as Jayden Bogle was denied from close range.
At times it looked like being one of those days for Sheffield United who just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, but on the 70 minute mark, Federico Fernandez took the phrase ‘at arms length’ a bit too literally.
The Newcastle defender appeared to brush the ball away from Billy Sharp with his hand in the 18 yard box and after a lengthy VAR check the penalty was awarded.
Billy Sharp, who had come on as a substitute just ten minutes before, made no mistake from the spot, sending Darlow the wrong way and finishing emphatically into the bottom left corner.
Sharp was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch nine minutes later when his challenge on Fabian Schar caught the side of the defender’s ankle.
Many would have expected Newcastle to have more of a go at the Sheffield United defence in the final stages, especially with the introduction of Andy Carroll, but the Magpies never really looked like equalising.
There was a very late scare deep into stoppage time when a breakdown in communication between Bogle and Ramsdale almost proved fatal but the ball ended up just wide of the post seconds before the final whistle.
It was a win that will be incredibly satisfying for Chris Wilder and his team but there’s still an awful lot of work to be done if the Blades are to miraculously escape relegation this season.
The gap to safety is now 9 points which is not unassailable but does look very daunting with some tricky fixtures coming up.
Newcastle meanwhile remain 15th and need to be careful not to be sucked into a relegation battle of their own in the coming weeks.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Blades’ manager Chris Wilder described the win as “a long-time coming”.
“I’ve said all along, everyone who’s played against us, top sides and everyone else, are possibly scratching their head about the position we’re in, we’ve been competitive in 90 per cent of the games. But it is what it is, the results haven’t been good enough.”
“I felt it was coming, first half we set the game up to give us a foothold and platform to win the game. I was delighted in the way we played, we looked like we had an identity.”
Wilder’s opposite number would’ve been left with a bitter taste in his mouth but opted to direct most of his anger towards VAR.
“I have to say the decision for the penalty is poor… when you’re running your arms are going to move.”
“The big clear and obvious one, I don’t want to see people sent off but Billy Sharp’s challenge on Fabian Schar was a disgrace.”
Bruce also recognised that his side weren’t at the races tonight and said “I understand especially watching the first half we weren’t good enough and I take the responsibility for that, because I picked the team.”
Next up for Sheffield United is the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to Bramall Lane where the Blades will look to follow up from their first win of the season.
The Magpies meanwhile will next travel to Arsenal on Monday looking to get back to winning ways after an eight game run without a win.