Newcastle United were wonderful for most of the season as they clinched the Championship title and a return to the Premier League.
However, as consistent as they managed to be for the most part, there were certain games which will be looked back on as crucial to the success. Which? Let's see...
August 13, 2016: Newcastle United 1-2 Huddersfield Town
Defeat on Tyneside summoned Rafael Benitez’ men to two defeats in their opening two games having previously lost at Fulham eight days prior.
Huddersfield were tipped as early season favourites to be relegated from the Championship. But the Terriers suffered no stage fright by showing their qualities that earned them a play-off final place to send a realisation to the Toon Army on just how tough the second division is.
August 17, 2016: Newcastle United 4-1 Reading
Newcastle welcomed another of this season play-off final opponents to St James’ Park four days later in Reading. This was a much-needed win for the Magpies as they got off the mark in the second division.
Dwight Gayle announced himself in the black and white stripes with a brace which helped spread some relieve around Tyneside. The comprehensive victory started a run of winning 13 and losing just one.
September 28, 2017: Newcastle United 4-3 Norwich City
Arguably United’s most memorable game of the campaign. Norwich went into this fixture top of the table, where a victory would have seen the Magpies fall seven points behind the Canaries.
Benitez’ men were 3-2 down with minutes left to go but Yoan Gouffran levelled before Gayle fired dramatic late winner to send St James’ Park into ecstasy. The victory sent United on an eight-game winning streak.
Norwich would lose their way and end the season outside the play-off places.
January 14, 2017: Brentford United 1-2 Newcastle United
Benitez’ side stumbled over the festive period with three defeats from seven – Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers.
Things started brightly at Griffin Park when Gayle hit his 20th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. However, fortunes were to quickly turn as Gayle departed with a hamstring injury – limiting him to just five starts for the rest of the season.
Lasse Vibe equalised for Brentford as there looked to be only one winner.
But, United found a winner as Daryl Murphy achieved popular status among the Toon supporters by coming off the bench to head his first league goal in Newcastle colours.
February 4, 2017: Newcastle United 1-0 Derby County
A lot of media coverage surrounded the future of Benitez after he expressed his disappointment following United’s inability to secure any January signing. Things felt a bit flat on Tyneside when Newcastle could only manage a 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers on deadline day.
Still, the Toon Army faithful, staff and players showed their strong intentions of maintaining their promotion push as Matt Ritchie’s single strike edged out the Magpies against the returning Steve McClaren.
February 28, 2017: Brighton and Hove Albion 1-2 Newcastle United
In the space of seven days, Newcastle travelled to all three of the top four clubs in Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading.
The three season-defining games started in United snatching all three points at the Amex as Mohammed Diame and Ayoze Perez saw the Magpies come from behind to leapfrog Brighton into first place and open up an eight-point gap on third place.
United’s season double over Chris Hughton’s men would prove telling on the final day of the Championship season…
March 4, 2017: Huddersfield Town 1-3 Newcastle United
Four days later, Newcastle knew that they had to build on the victory at Brighton in midweek.
It was another season-defining victory for Benitez and his side as they opened up a huge 11-point game over Huddersfield in third-place to almost virtually secure their promotion.
April 5, 2017: Newcastle United 1-0 Burton Albion
After the Magpies failed to win in three games following the victory at the John Smiths Stadium, Newcastle nervously edged past Wigan Athletic before going into another crucial tie with Burton.
One obvious talking point was close to costing United a huge three points. Referee Keith Stroud bizarrely awarded a free-kick for encroachment into the area from Ritchie’s penalty instead of rightly signalling a retake.
Thankfully Newcastle brushed themselves to take the victory following a stunning strike from Ritchie.
April 24, 2017: Newcastle United 4-1 Preston North End
Relieve. The game that officially secured promotion back the Premier League for Newcastle United.
Having required just one win from ties against Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday, the Magpies looked to beat Ipswich Town on Monday, April 17, though lost 3-1.
Huddersfield travelled to Derby in the day’s later kick-off, where a Terriers’ win would have piled the pressure on the Newcastle.
Instead, Derby would hold Huddersfield to a draw. United then took full advantage to secure promotion in front of their own fans a week later against the Lilywhites.
May 7, 2017: Newcastle United 3-0 Barnsley
The Magpies were seven points behind league leaders Brighton with three games to go, but somehow the Seagulls failed to win any of their final three games.
Benitez’ comfortably saw off Barnsley on the final day but eyes were on Villa Park. Things looked bleak when Aston Villa went down to 10-men and a goal down from Glen Murray's penalty.
But just the Magpies mutedly celebrated a third goal of the game from Gayle, a huge roar arrived seconds later when Jack Grealish curled home an equaliser to the send the Championship title to Tyneside.