It was domination from Rafael Benitez’s side in the early proceedings, with Matt Ritchie’s third minute opener followed by good opportunities for both Christian Atsu and Gayle.
The Magpies remained comfortable until Nicolao Dumitru-Cardosa’s 29th minute effort saw the sides level at the break.
It was a contrasting beginning to the second period, with Richie’s opportunity and the dismissal of Matt Mills been the only highlight inside the opening 15 minutes of the half.
That proved the catalyst for United’s turnaround with Gayle regaining their lead in the 63rd minute, and made sure of it with his 19th goal of the season to send the St James’ Park faithful into the New Year with three points.
Started off brightly
Both Ritchie and Isaac Hayden stood over the set piece just outside the area, and it was the former Bournemouth man who curled it over the wall. The effort wrong-footed goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic as Ritchie’s settled in the bottom right-hand corner.
It could have easily been two almost instantaneously, it was Ritchie again with the set piece this time playing it short for Atsu. He played a dangerous ball in from the by-line, which was unfortunately hacked over the crossbar by the Forest defender.
It was all Newcastle in the opening proceedings, and another opportunity arose in the ninth minute of the contest. It was great trickery from Hayden as he wriggled his way to the by-line, he did well to float the ball onto the head of Gayle but the effort was straight at Stojkovic.
Snatching the opportunity
Phillippe Montainer's side had been bystanders for the majority of the opening proceedings, but were handed their first real sniff at goal in the 20th minute. A dangerous ball in from the left found Dumitru close to the area, he had space for the effort but managed to skewer wide of the post.
He made up for that failed opportunity however as he got Forest’s equaliser nine minutes later. Hildberto Pereira sprayed out to the wing, which United failed to deal with and Dumitru was there to fire past Karl Darlow from the close-range.
Forest broke quickly on the counter in the 40th minute with the ball been played out wide to Nicklas Bendtner. The former Arsenal man did well to make his way his side and get his shot away from the edge, but it proved comfortable for Darlow to collect.
The final chance of the half fell to the home side, and it deserved to give the Magpies the lead in part to the excellent build-up play. It was good work from Ayoze Perez and Gayle to make up ground, with Hayden flashing it at Gayle from close-range but the effort was deflected wide of the post.
Making all the difference
Benitez’s side came out for the second period lacking the same intensity that they had from the first whistle, but it was them that had the majority of the opportunities. The best chance came in the 57th minute when Atsu had a crack at goal, it was deflected straight into the path of Ritchie and Stojkovic did well to quickly react and keep it out.
The games turning point came around about the hour mark when the visitors were reduced to ten men. It looked a dangerous tackle from Mills which he was booked for, but after consulting his fourth official Keith Stroud gave the defender his marching orders.
It proved to be the boost that the home side needed, as they regained their lead four minutes after the dismissal. It was poor from Forest’s perspective as a long punt from the middle of the park was headed on into the path of Gayle. The angle looked to be against the number nine, but did brilliantly to get it beyond Stojkovic and into the top right-hand corner.
Mohamed Diame was introduced as the game began to enter it’s final 20 minutes, and he was involved almost instantly. The former Hull City man got the ball out of his feet but his effort was deflected, it fell straight to the feet of Hayden who tried one from distance which whizzed just wide of the post.
Making sure of it
The three points were sealed with ten minutes to play, as Gayle continued his excellent season with United’s third goal of the evening. The play carried on after some light hearted penalty appeals with the ball play out to the right, the cross was not dealt with by Forest as it came to Gayle at the back post to simply bundle it home.