Newcastle United's tactical savvy spuured them on to an excellent 2-0 win yesterday to make it a very good Friday for Alan Pardew's side.
Two goals from the potent Papiss Cisse - his second a contender for goal of the season - took them to within two points of north London clubs Arsenal and Tottenham - as well as above Champions League semi-finalists Chelsea.
Pardew is now 2/1 second favourite with William Hill to win the LMA Manager of the Year Award following the Toon's ascension to fifth in the table. The boss whose team he beat, Brendan Rodgers of Swansea, however remains 11/10 favourite to win the Award.
Spokesman for the bookmakers Graham Sharpe said: "We believe it depends whether fellow bosses believe it to be a greater achievement to get Newcastle challenging for a Champions League place or to guarantee Swansea Premier League safety in their first top flight season with weeks of the seaspon remaining."
The Magpies only regained promotion back to the Premier League in 2010 but sacked Chris Hughton in December, despite guiding the club straight back up and overseeing a solid start to the league campaign. Newcastle were 11th in the table at the time of his dismissal.
Cisse's sumptuous second:
Pardew, out of work since he was fired by League One Southampton in August that year, was a controversial choice to succeed the likeable Hughton. He had not managed in the Premier League since he was boss of Charlton when they were relegated in 2007 and was known to be a friend of Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias.
When it was revealed the pair frequented the same casino, opposition supporters and self-deprecating Geordies were left with an open goal to crack jokes as to how Pardew got the gig. He momentarily quelled the sceptics by guiding the team to a resounding 3-1 victory over Liverpool at St James' Park in his first game in charge.
The sale of Andy Carroll in January 2011 drew much criticism from avid fans disconsolate at a local lad leaving at just 22-years-old and three months after signing a new contract, especially more so since the club did not recruit an immediate replacement.
But now they have Cisse and his Senegalese compatriot Demba Ba. The goals may have dried up for the latter, who has 16 this season (he hasn't scored since 5 February) but Cisse, prolific in Germany, has been just as rampant in England.
Some remain unconvinced by Pardew's newfound heroism:
Nine goals in eight games is already making the £9m transfer fee look cheap, and he has nabbed a brace in each of his last three matches.
The Toon's scouting network deserves as much praise as Pardew's management. Graham Carr (father of comedian Alan) has helped unearth and identify other gems such as Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote to make the Black and Whites a force again.
But can the Tyneside team nudge aside two southern sides from the Champions League berths?
William Hill LMA MANAGER OF YEAR ODDS:
8/1 Sir Alex Ferguson
8/1 Paul Lambert
12/1 David Moyes
16/1 Harry Redknapp
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