There may have been no Robbie Fowler, but there is only one Alan Shearer.
Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan, the man who signed the latter in his time as Newcastle manager and this week failed to land the former, much to his frustration, was left to rue both facts as his side became the Magpies' 10th successive Premiership victims at St James' Park as Sir Bobby Robson's men climbed to third in the table with a 2-0 win.
Shearer, on his return from a one-match ban, needed just 10.5 seconds to remind his side just how important he is to them when he charged down Carlo Nash's clearance and fired into the empty net to get his side off to the perfect start.
Nash was later to redeem himself with two saves each from Craig Bellamy, who wrapped up the points with a 64th-minute second, and Laurent Robert, but although City battled all the way to the whistle, they never really recovered from that early blow.
Newcastle's under-pressure defence remained largely defiant in the face of a stern examination from Nicolas Anelka, who only once really found the time and space to cause any damage, although Ali Benarbia was unfortunate to see a 24th-minute effort come back off the post.
Keegan's first Premiership return to St James' Park was always going to be an eventful one, but few of the 52,152 who packed into the stadium could have expected the game to start so explosively.
From the kick-off, the ball was rolled back to former Magpie Steve Howey, who in turn played it on for Nash.
The keeper's first touch was not the best, but when he looked up and prepared to clear, he saw the whites of Shearer's eyes as the 32-year-old scampered across the newly-laid turf to block and then slot into the empty net.
It could hardly have been a worse beginning for the visitors, but to their credit, they did not let it weigh on their minds as they played a full part in an enthralling contest which suggested that there would be more on the way.
Shaun Goater could have levelled within seven minutes but failed to control in front of goal from Aaron Hughes' misplaced header, but Nash had to redeem himself three minutes later after Shearer played Bellamy in, the keeper getting down well to block the Welshman's shot.
Marc-Vivien Foe's late runs into the box were causing the home side problems, as were the pace of Anelka and Benarbia's probing passes, and it was the Algerian who went closest to levelling with 24 minutes gone when he collected Niclas Jensen's pass inside the box but saw his shot come back off the post.
Howey had to clear Shearer's shot off the line with Nash beaten two minutes later after Kieron Dyer had split the City defence, and Nash saved well from Jermaine Jenas on the half-hour.
But the visitors were not prepared to lie down and die and it took a good interception by the impressive Olivier Bernard to deny Goater a point-blank shot at goal, and Foe sliced horribly wide after finding space inside the box five minutes before half-time.
Newcastle had a good chance to extend their lead within 19 seconds of the restart, but Dyer failed to capitalise on good work by Hughes, Shearer and Bellamy, and the Welshman himself forced another good save from Nash on 52 minutes after being put in on goal by Nolberto Solano.
But it was then that City rallied, and they should have been level with 59 minutes gone after Anelka finally found time and space.
He raced on to Benarbia's through-ball as the Newcastle defence slept, and although Shay Given did well to get a hand to the ball as the Frenchman tried to round him, Foe passed up an opportunity to score when he missed his kick in front of goal and then Goater drove his shot straight at the recovering keeper.
But Newcastle's pace on the break was at times frightening, and they put it to good use with 64 minutes gone to go 2-0 up.
Jenas delivered a superb pass into Robert's run down the left, and he teed up the ball perfectly for Bellamy to slide in at the far post and dispatch it beyond Nash.
Shearer headed a Robert cross straight at the keeper and Nash then saved well from Robert after Dyer had played him in on 75 minutes to preserve his side's fading hopes.
The Frenchman was denied once again by Nash five minutes later after working a short corner move, but although Kevin Horlock kept Given on his toes with an 82nd-minute attempt from distance, the points had long been secured.
Manchester City boss Kevin Keegan described Newcastle skipper Alan Shearer as
a 'bargain' after watching him condemn his team to defeat on his return to St
Keegan, who paid Blackburn Rovers £15million in July 1996 for Shearer,
suffered at his hands - or more accurately, his left foot - when, just 10.5
seconds into the game, he blocked keeper Carlo Nash's clearance and dispatched
the rebound into the empty net to give his side the lead.
Craig Bellamy added a second with 64 minutes gone, and although City had
chances of their own, the Magpies could have run out even more comfortable
winners had Nash not redeemed himself with a series of excellent saves.
But Keegan, who admitted his side had been far from their best, became the
latest visiting manager to praise 32-year-old Shearer.
'He's the best, it's a simple as that, not because he's outrageously skilful,
not because he's got tremendous flair, but because every single week when you go
out there and play against Alan Shearer - it doesn't matter who you are as a
defender - you know you're in for a tough afternoon,' he said.
'If you keep him quiet, you've played exceptionally well. He's their leader
and most teams would die for leadership like that.
'It's lacking in the game today. If you look back 20 years, there were quite
a few about. They're a dying breed. He was tremendous today. He and Bellamy were
'It's easy to make a signing like that if you've got the money. We paid
£15million in one hit for Alan Shearer and people questioned it at the time.
'But you might look on it as the bargain of a lifetime even in the present
transfer market, not because of what he's done, but also what he's still capable
Keegan was disappointed at his side's showing on an afternoon which meant so
much to him personally.
'It was disappointing,' he said. 'Obviously, it was very hard with the
start we had to talk of it as a normal game.
'You go out there, you've got the kick-off and the first of their players to
touch the ball is Alan Shearer and he puts it in the net from an error.
'But I thought Newcastle thoroughly deserved to win. We didn't get much of a
head of steam up today, I don't know why, but we still had chances.
'I think we were hanging in more than playing well.'
Sir Bobby Robson, under whom Newcastle have come closer to emulating the
Keegan era than either of his predecessors, was understandably delighted with a
thrilling attacking display and a clean sheet which propelled them into third
place in the Premiership table.
'It's quite impossible to score a quicker goal than 10.5 seconds in the
Premiership,' he said. 'You couldn't run that far in 10 seconds, let alone
'It was obviously a fortuitous goal, but you have to give credit to Alan. He
chased the back pass - he could have said `I won't run, I won't press it, I'll
let him have it', but he got close to him and he banged it against him he scored
with his left foot, one of Alan Shearer's rare left-foot goals.
'I thought it was a wonderful game from a spectator's point of view and as a
football match. It was highly entertaining because it see-sawed from one end to
'They were, apart from the early goal, more or less equal to us in the
first-half. They gave us some problems and we gave them slightly more problems.
We were slightly the better side, but I think the second half was a different
United now head into their midweek clash with Bolton knowing that they can
cement their top-three place, and Keegan insists that they must be considered as
genuine title contenders as they were under him in 1995-96.
'They've got a game in hand and you put the three points on and then look at
it, and they're right up there,' he said. 'People were talking about Chelsea
as title contenders, weren't they?
'There's a long way to go still, but I think last season, Newcastle had a
chance of winning the title. There was a period just about February when, if you
looked and the table and they'd won the big games, they could have won it.
'Nothing would please me more for the fans here - but I think Arsenal are