Newcastle's rubbish display at Everton sends relegation fears soaring
Newcastle United stumble on through a Premier League campaign that is still threatening to end in tears.
The last time Newcastle were relegated, in 2009, they went down because of political backdrop that resulted in four managers taking charge of the team in nine months.
Even with proven Premier League stars like Mark Viduka, Michael Owen, Damien Duff and Steve Harper on board the Magpies went down on the final game of the season.
Fast forward to 2016 and the club are supposed to be in a much more stable state with a head coach who has been assured of his future and backed with transfer funds in Steve McClaren.
Only, the Magpies can't manage to conjure up any level of consistency and with just 21 points on the board with 14 games to go, it's going to be an almighty struggle to survive.
The 3-0 defeat at Everton was hard to watch for the fans who had travelled to the North-West hoping to see their team turn the corner.
Any type of victory would have helped them climb out of the bottom three, while even a point would have set things up quite nicely for Saturday's game with West Brom.
In the end they couldn't even manage to put up a fight.
Everton were there for the taking after they'd failed to win in their last five home encounters too.
However, Newcastle offered them every encouragement to find a way back into form and into this lacklustre contest.
Everton created very little in the opening stages while Newcastle could not manage a shot on target until early in the second half. By that time they were trailing to Aaron Lennon's opener on 22 minutes.
But Newcastle showed no signs of getting on level terms if the truth were to be told. In fact, the game should have been done and dusted before the hour mark as Everton managed to strike the goal frame three times in six minutes.
Newcastle offered very little in response with only Ayoze Perez and Jamaal Lascelles coming close to getting the gloves of Joel Robles dirty.
Everton did not appear capable of finishing the game off, yet Newcastle made it easy for them by conceding two needless penalties. First Rolando Aarons upended Aaron Lennon to allow Ross Barkley to seal the three points.
Then, in stoppage time, Jamaal Lascelles played his joker by upending Barkley to earn a red card for a second yellow before the England international stepped up to polish the game off.
A 3-0 scoreline should be bad enough for Newcastle but the facts of the matter are it could have been much worse had it not been for Rob Elliot and the woodwork.
Only Elliot and Jonjo Shelvey can really walk away feeling proud of themselves after United slumped to a poor defeat. It ramps up the significance of the home game with West Brom on Saturday.
Already, the prospect of the man Newcastle tried to sign in Saido Berahino on deadline day coming back to haunt the Magpies is being talked about by supporters.
Were he to score the winner against Newcastle on Saturday, St James' Park could be stunned into silence.
Another defeat would push United nearer to relegation, but with 14 games left they still have enough time to get out of trouble. The clock is ticking now, though, and the look on McClaren's face after the game at Goodison Park suggested he knows as much.
For now Newcastle live to fight another day, but the fans who made the way to Merseyside for this poor display are beginning to wonder.
Lee Ryder is the chief sports writer for the Newcastle Chronicle, and follows Newcastle from academy to first team. Follow him on Twitter: @lee_ryder.