Newcastle beat Brighton, move to verge of Champs League
Newcastle are just one win away from a return to the Champions League.
The Saudi-controlled club beat Brighton 4-1 on Thursday to strengthen their hold on third place in the Premier League.
Three more points will guarantee Newcastle a top-four finish and an automatic spot in Europe's premier club event, a competition the club last played in 20 years ago.
The team's remaining games are at home to next-to-last Leicester and away to Chelsea.
Brighton striker Deniz Undav had an eventful game at St James' Park, glancing Kieran Trippier's inswinging corner into his own net to give Newcastle the lead in the 23rd minute.
Trippier had a key role in the second goal, too, as he curled in a free kick that was nodded in by tall left back Dan Burn in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time.
Undav made amends for his own goal - Brighton's league-high sixth of the season - by running onto Billy Gilmour's defence-splitting pass and converting a finish to reduce the deficit in the 51st.
Callum Wilson ensured there was no way back with a goal on the breakaway in the 89th and he set up Bruno Guimaraes for a fourth two minutes later.
The loss for sixth-place Brighton all but ends their top-four hopes, leaving Roberto De Zerbi's team to focus on finishing in fifth or sixth place and getting into the Europa League.
De Zerbi rotated his lineup, dropping Argentina midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to the bench, and expressed concerns his squad wasn't strong enough to cope with such fixture congestion.
"We have too many injuries and we have to think about this," De Zerbi said. "We are not in the best condition to play four games in 12 days and I had to think in a different way. I think in Newcastle's stadium, we can lose the game."
Newcastle's players might have already done enough to secure a place in the Champions League qualification places.
Liverpool are four points back in fifth and the only team that can stop them, but they would likely have to beat Aston Villa and Southampton in their two remaining games just to stand a chance.
"It is still so far away," said Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, who didn't want to talk about his team's Champions League chances.
"When it's done," he added, "I'll talk about it for fun if you want."