Sergio Aguero’s 100th Premier League goal was not enough for Manchester City to force victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw at relegation-threatened Newcastle United on Tuesday.
Aguero, City’s top scorer, claimed his landmark goal after 14 minutes, but Manuel Pellegrini’s side were pegged back before half-time as Dutch international Vurnon Anita found the net for the first time in more than two years to earn a deserved point for Rafael Benitez’s side.
City remain third, a point ahead of Arsenal and five points above Manchester United, trailing leaders Leicester City by 12 points.
“I am happy,” said City manager Pellegrini. “We started winning the game, but we could not have the control after that. We knew that it was very tough. We are just trying to add points.”
A draw left Newcastle two points adrift of safety, but they will retain hope of pulling off an unlikely escape in their remaining four games if they can reproduce this level of performance.
“I have to be pleased because against a team like Man City, to do what we have done from 1-0 down, the reaction of the team, you have to be pleased,” said Benitez.
“The team has more belief now. The fans are behind the players and they will fight to the end.”
Newcastle were indebted to a fine display from Karl Darlow, their third-choice goalkeeper, who kept out efforts from Jesus Navas, Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne in a nervy second half.
And the hosts might even have won it at the death when substitute Georginio Wijnaldum had a close-range shot blocked by City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
City, who recalled captain Vincent Kompany after a month out with a calf injury, went ahead in the 14th minute, though the hosts had justifiable claims that the effort should not have stood.
After he was fouled by Andros Townsend, Aleksandar Kolarov swung a free-kick into the Newcastle area from City’s left.
The officials missed Aguero returning from an offside position as the set-piece was taken and the Argentinian rose to send a glancing near-post header beyond Darlow from six yards out.
It has taken Aguero just 147 games to score 100 Premier League goals, with only Alan Shearer — who was at St James’ Park as part of the BBC’s radio match commentary team — reaching the landmark more quickly, in 124 appearances.
“Sergio Aguero’s record is deserved,” said Pellegrini. “He makes an important difference for us. I am happy for him.”
De Bruyne came close to doubling the advantage when the Belgian was gifted possession by Jamaal Lascelles, but the prolific midfielder shot narrowly wide.
Moussa Sissoko should have drawn the hosts level just before the half-hour, but the Frenchman lacked conviction after intercepting a Kolarov pass and sprinting 50 yards, sending a tame shot straight at Hart from just inside the area.
But Sissoko did not have to wait long to make amends as he played a significant role in the 31st-minute equaliser, sweeping a ball out to Anita, who had advanced to the edge of the City area from his auxiliary right-back role.
The Dutchman cut inside Kolarov onto his left foot and curled in a low shot that beat Hart and found the net via the foot of the left-hand post for a stunning leveller.
City started the second period on the front foot, with Aguero having a penalty claimed waved away by well-placed referee Kevin Friend after the forward went down in a penalty area tussle with Chancel Mbemba.
Darlow then had to dive full-stretch to his right to claw away an angled drive from Navas at a swiftly taken free-kick, as the visitors piled on the pressure in their attempts to retake the lead.
They failed to do so, in the process seeing their 12-game winning run against the Tyneside club brought to an end to leave their top-four hopes very much in the balance.