FOR 70 minutes it was entertaining – then just got embarrassing.
It was a lesson in how not to defend.
For the second time in four days, Alan Pardew’s side scored three goals away from home ... and got absolutely nothing.
There was much to admire about Newcastle’s attacking play at the Emirates Stadium.
Midfielder Sylvain Marveaux arguably played his best game yet for the club, striker Demba Ba took his goal tally for the season to 13 and winger Gabriel Obertan was purposeful as well as pacy in the final third of the pitch.
Ultimately, their good work was undone by defending that even made TV pundit and former manager Kevin Keegan wince.
Newcastle’s 4-3 Boxing Day defeat to Manchester United brought back memories of the first of the club’s two losses by the same scoreline at Anfield.
Keegan’s players were able to look back at that defeat with some pride.
And there were as many positives as negatives to come from Old Trafford.
But this fixture won’t be remembered for the attacking contributions of Marveaux, Obertan and Ba.
Instead, it’ll only ever be talked about for a calamitous spell which saw Arsenal score four unanswered goals in the space of 17 minutes.
Up to that point, United had looked good for a point.
Newcastle had deservedly gone into the break on level terms after Theo Walcott’s 20th-minute opener was cancelled out by a deflected free-kick from Ba late in the first half.
Five minutes into the second half, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, handed his debut at Southampton by Pardew, was given time and space on the edge of the box to score Arsenal’s second goal.
United levelled again. Obertan broke up the wing and put in a teasing low cross with his weaker left foot for Marveaux to prod home.
Lukas Podolski netted a third for the home team after Fabricio Coloccini’s attempted clearance hit the crossbar, but a delightful cross for Ba from Marveaux with the outside of his right foot levelled things up. Again.
But that was as good as it got for Newcastle.
And the performance unravelled steadily at first, and then spectacularly, between then and the final whistle.
Two goals apiece from Walcott and substitute Olivier Giroud saw the club concede seven goals for the first time in a Premier League fixture.
United’s defence was all over the place, with marking at times non-existent.
It was all too easy for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Newcastle couldn’t keep the ball, and captain Fabricio Coloccini wasn’t able to marshall his colleagues.
Coloccini, such an influential figure in recent seasons, was wobbling as much as anyone.
And the captain – who hasn’t spoken to the media in recent months – again kept his thoughts to himself as he left the Emirates Stadium.
Like Coloccini, Cheik Tiote has been far from his best this season.
And the pair need to find some form quickly given their importance to the club, which is just three points above the relegation zone ahead of Wednesday’s home game against Everton.
Defender Mathieu Debuchy’s proposed move from Lille is a step in the right direction – but the deal is undoubtedly several months too late.
The time to build on last season’s success was in the summer.
As it was, only one senior player, Vurnon Anita, arrived at St James’s Park in the last transfer window.
And United will be playing catch-up, at best, between now and the end of the season.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla (Coquelin 85), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Giroud 74), Podolski (Ramsey 82), Walcott. Subs Not Used: Mannone, Rosicky, Djourou, Gervinho. Goals: Walcott 20, Oxlade-Chamberlain 50, Podolski 64, Walcott 73, Giroud 84, 87, Walcott 90.
Newcastle: Krul, Simpson (Ferguson 82), Coloccini, Perch, Santon, Obertan, Bigirimana (Shola Ameobi 82), Tiote, Marveaux (Tavernier 88), Ba, Cisse. Subs Not Used: Harper, Sammy Ameobi, Abeid, Streete. Booked: Santon. Goals: Ba 43, Marveaux 59, Ba 69.
Att: 60, 087 Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).