STOKE-ON-TRENT // Demba Ba, the Newcastle United striker, gave Stoke City a taste of what they missed out on with a hat-trick as the Magpies won 3-1 to move within a point of second-placed Manchester United.
The Senegal international would have been a Potters player in January as he had already agreed a move from Hoffenheim before the club pulled the plug on the move after he failed their medical.
Ba struck twice in the first half to give his side a comfortable lead and, although Jonathan Walters pulled one back with from the spot with 15 minutes remaining, Newcastle restored their two-goal cushion with a penalty of their own.
Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, praised his striker, who joined West Ham instead of Stoke last season, and believes there is more to come from Ba.
"I don't think there is any animosity between Demba and this club," Pardew said, concerning Ba's failure to sign for the Potters in January.
"He did a great job at West Ham and I brought him to Newcastle and he has been absolutely terrific. He doesn't miss a day's training.
"Don't think this is a one-off from him; his link-up play, his all-round ability and his finishing.
"He is always on the move in the box and if you do that you are going to score goals and that is why he got his first two. And it showed sheer confidence to hit a penalty like that."
When it came to defending set pieces striker Leon Best was employed to good effect at the back to combat their opponents' aerial power while Gabriel Obertan occupied a high, wide position to ensure there was always an attacking outlet.
That provided the platform for Ba to do what he does best at the other end and Newcastle's 12th-minute opener would not have looked out of place in the Stoke coaching manual.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul's kick was headed on by Best to Obertan, who found space behind left-back Marc Wilson. The Frenchman's inviting cross into the six-yard area picked out Ba who expertly twisted his body to head the ball back inside the near post.
The Magpies doubled their lead five minutes before the interval when Matthew Upson could only help Fabricio Coloccini's lofted pass on to Best on the right of the penalty area and he crossed low for Ba to tap in.
With still no sign of a breakthrough, Kenwyne Jones replaced Matthew Etherington for the last quarter and within five minutes Stoke pulled one back.
Upson's goalbound effort was headed away by Coloccini but Ba fouled Peter Crouch in the ensuing scramble and Walters fired home the penalty.
The recovery had barely began when it was ended as referee Mike Dean penalised Robert Huth for a push on Best and Ba drilled home from the spot.
"This is a really good Stoke side who have a strong squad and the way they play makes it difficult," Pardew said.
"You have to show real character and my players did that. They showed another side to them and it is important in the Premier League you have many sides to your team."
Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager, admitted his side were second-best for most of the game.
"The two goals they scored are not goals that have cut us apart and you have to hold your hand up and say it is really good play," he said.
"They are two poor goals for us. The first one is offside - when the keeper kicks it Leon Best is actually offside and comes back and wins it but we should have done better after that."