Newcastle United 1 Aston Villa 0: Cisse strike downs visitors
Newcastle United condemned Tim Sherwood to a second consecutive loss as Aston Villa manager as they ran out 1-0 winners in the Premier League at St James' Park.
John Carver's side, boosted by the return of Jonas Gutierrez to the bench for the first time since the Argentine overcame testicular cancer, took the lead against the run of play through Papiss Cisse's 11th league goal of the campaign midway through the first half.
And they were able to celebrate three points after soaking up some second-half pressure, with Christian Benteke having a goal ruled out for offside, while the hosts also went close through Ryan Taylor and Ayoze Perez.
The result lifts Newcastle on to 35 points, while lowly Villa have now lost seven consecutive league matches.
Villa have not won a Premier League game without Ashley Westwood in 17 months and, after dropping to the bench last week, the midfielder returned in fine form as the visitors made a confident start to proceedings, with Newcastle unable to cope with their direct attacking style.
And they could well have been ahead four minutes in as Benteke whipped in a sublime cross to the back post, but Daryl Janmaat recovered well to clear.
Gabriel Agbonlahor then saw a goal correctly disallowed for offside as Villa continued to press, though the hosts would have been ahead had Alan Hutton not blocked Cisse's goal-bound effort.
But Villa were not to be deterred, with Benteke - looking at his imposing best - forcing Tim Krul into a fine save with an ambitious overhead kick from the edge of the area before Scott Sinclair went close having latched onto Westwood's pass.
However, for all Villa's pressure, it was the hosts who took the lead when Janmaat's terrific cross from the right found Cisse in the area and he provided a composed finish before running straight to the touchline to celebrate with Gutierrez.
The Senegalese has now scored more league goals in 2014-15 than the last two seasons combined, and Newcastle should have been further ahead two minutes later, but Emmanuel Riviere headed wide from close range.
Both sides made subdued starts to the second period, with Newcastle content to retain possession in midfield, and Benteke isolated up top for the visitors.
Cisse almost doubled his tally as the hour-mark approached, directing his header just wide after connecting with Sammy Ameobi's whipped free-kick.
Villa eventually managed to fashion an effort in the 62nd minute when Tom Cleverley latched on to Benteke's knock-down, but Krul was equal to the Manchester United loanee's strike.
Sherwood introduced former Newcastle player Charles N'Zogbia soon after as Villa looked to step up the pressure, but it was the hosts who almost went further ahead – Ciaran Clark doing well to halt Gabriel Obertan as the Frenchman bore down on goal.
Benteke thought he had levelled with 20 minutes remaining after he tapped in at the back post from Westwood's pass, but the Belgian was flagged for offside.
Taylor, on in the place of Massadio Haidara, then tested Brad Guzan with a curling free-kick, before Perez hit the post with a header from the resulting corner as Newcastle held firm to secure their first triumph in four games.