Alan Shearer's 15th goal of the season ultimately handed Newcastle an eighth successive Premiership win at St James' Park as Tottenham were beaten 2-1.
Gary Speed had fired the Tynesiders ahead with 17 minutes gone and the points looked to be safe when Shearer headed home Craig Bellamy's cross 13 minutes after the break.
But an own goal from substitute Nikos Dabizas, who spectacularly headed Teddy Sheringham's cross past Shay Given, ensured a nail-biting last 17 minutes.
The victory was all the more impressive as United started the second half having used all three of their substitutions as Speed, Nolberto Solano and Kieron Dyer all departed prematurely through injury.
But in teenager Jermaine Jenas, Sir Bobby Robson found a young man who is not just a prospect for the future, but already a genuine Premiership player at just 19.
Spurs will feel they should have had something out of the game after enjoying a healthy share of the possession, but United refused to loosen their grip despite an anxious last few minutes.
Robson's decision to alter his formation against Spurs last season in a bid to cope with the threat posed by nemesis Gustavo Poyet attracted rare criticism for the 69-year-old, and although he immediately launched a passionate defence of his decision after a 2-0 defeat, he was not about to repeat it this time around.
But while the United boss adopted his usual 4-4-2 line-up, opposite number Glenn Hoddle opted for a fluid system in which Steffen Freund was asked to patrol the area in front of central defenders Ledley King and Chris Perry.
Goran Bunjevcevic, Simon Davies and Poyet constantly switched and swapped ahead of him to pile pressure on United's Jekyll and Hyde defence.
The Londoners actually enjoyed more possession than their hosts before the break, but the efforts of a back four with something to prove, and when they were defeated, keeper Given, proved enough to get them through the opening 45 minutes.
The Irishman produced superb stops from Mauricio Taricco and Poyet to preserve his clean sheet, and they were to prove vital as opposite number Kasey Keller and his defenders worked hard to keep out the Magpies.
However, there was little he could do to deny Speed the opening goal with just 17 minutes gone when Andy O'Brien got up well to flick on Laurent Robert's long throw and the Welshman arrived right on cue to smash a right-foot shot home.
Keller denied Aaron Hughes a second with a good save low down at his left post and Taricco hacked Shearer's goal-bound effort off the line in a flurry of activity which only abated as the half-time whistle approached.
United, as ever, threatened at regular intervals as they surged forward in numbers with Shearer, the returning Bellamy, Solano and Robert all looking to attack at will.
Even the loss of Speed to a groin injury six minutes after his goal did little to harm their impetus.
But Spurs too, spearheaded by the impressive Robbie Keane and prompted by Bunjevcevic, showed no lack of adventure to leave a crowd of 52,145 on the edge of their seats.
United were dealt a double blow at the break when Solano, suffering concussion after a clash with Taricco, and Dyer, who picked up a calf strain in the first half, did not reappear.
Dabizas was sent on into central defence as Steve Caldwell moved to right- back to allow Hughes to push into central midfield, while Lomana LuaLua lined up on the right side of midfield.
But the reshuffle did not cause the Magpies too much disruption, in the early stages at least as they set about extending their lead.
And they did just that with 58 minutes gone when Robert's quickly-taken throw-in allowed Bellamy to race clear and although Perry blocked his first cross, he picked out Shearer at the far post and he directed a firm header past Keller to make it 2-0.
LuaLua wasted a glorious opportunity to make it 3-0 with 62 minutes gone when he smashed his shot against the post after being played in by Shearer, and he was made to pay with 17 minutes remaining when Dabizas headed substitute Sheringham's cross into his own net.
That set up a tense finish as Spurs scrapped for a point, although Shearer could have eased the nerves but thundered a 77th-minute shot wide.
The visitors kept going to the whistle, but United had worked too hard to surrender at the death, and their elation as referee Steve Bennett brought an end to the contest was well earned.
Toon boss Sir Bobby Robson felt his side coped well after losing three players to injury.
'It was an absorbing game with chances at both ends,' he said. 'We had players out, but
revamped the side and made good chances.'
He added: 'I am delighted at the players really. It was a tough match on a
pudding of a pitch. The back four looked solid. On the break we always looked dangerous.'
Newcastle have lost just once at St James' this season, but it has been a
different story on their travels.
'It drives you crazy how we play so badly away from home,' reflected
'But we will just keep going. We have had a wonderful year. It has been just
marvellous, but we have got to improve our away form.'
Robson revealed Newcastle may have to dip into the transfer market when the
window opens again in the new year.
Three key midfield players - Kieron Dyer, Nolberto Solano and Gary Speed - all
were forced out today.
'The most important players are the ones who are here,' claimed Robson,
'But we are looking.'
Newcastle could be without Speed for up to six weeks after Robson revealed the
goalscorer was facing a hernia operation.
Tottenham boss Glenn Hoddle criticised his players for ball-watching when
Newcastle scored their second.
Chris Perry argued with the referee over a throw-in which allowed Craig
Bellamy time to escape the defence and cross for Shearer to score.
Hoddle told Sky Premiership Plus: 'Why were we standing there like dummies?.
'I wasn't sure if the ref got the decision [throw-in] right at first but now
I think he was probably right. If we give goals away like that we are going to
But the White Hart Lane chief insisted his team should have come away with a
'It would have been fair,' he said. 'We played very well in the first half,
got into some good positions and should have been leading instead of chasing the
'We deserved a draw. In the last 10 to 15 minutes we were controlling the