Dwight Gayle fires Newcastle to victory over Brentford
Dwight Gayle moved to the top of the Sky Bet Championship goal-scoring charts with a brace as Newcastle beat Brentford 3-1 at St James' Park to climb to second in the table.
Jonjo Shelvey was the architect behind all three of the home side's goals as they recorded a third straight league win.
Ciaran Clark headed in the opener for the hosts, while Scott Hogan's second-half effort for the Bees was little more than a consolation.
Rafa Benitez had urged his side to make a good start in his programme notes and the Spaniard was not to be disappointed as the hosts went two up inside 16 minutes in front of a bumper crowd of 51,885.
It was Brentford who carved out the first opportunity of note in the ninth minute when Maxime Colin's cross from the right found Hogan in acres of space but the striker headed high and wide.
Newcastle broke the deadlock just two minutes later, however, when Shelvey's deep cross found Clark unmarked and the Republic of Ireland centre-back headed home from six yards.
Shelvey was also at the heart of the home side's second goal in the 16th minute, with the Brentford defence failing to deal with his searching ball over the top and Gayle finding some space before rifling in a low effort from 12 yards.
The hosts thought they had a third after 23 minutes when Yoan Gouffran stung Daniel Bentley's palms from 20 yards before Ayoze Perez converted with his hand - the effort rightly chalked off by referee Simon Hooper.
Christian Atsu's curling shot from 20 yards whistled the wrong side of the post as Newcastle continued to dominate but Brentford finally got a shot on target after 35 minutes as Romaine Sawyers' clever ball over the top found Nico Yennaris, whose volley was well kept out by Karl Darlow.
Gayle's ninth goal in 10 games for the Magpies looked to have put the game to bed four minutes after half-time - the former Crystal Palace forward converting a tap-in from Shelvey's low cross following a neat move down the left.
Brentford responded immediately as Hogan netted his eighth of the season from close range after Newcastle failed to deal with a 51st-minute corner.
Newcastle continued to press, with Perez seeing a low effort well saved and Shelvey spurning a chance to register the goal his performance deserved when he curled a 74th-minute free-kick over the bar.
Gayle was denied a hat-trick when Bentley kept out his long-range effort late on, while Shelvey would have had a fourth assist had Achraf Lazaar not fired wide from his pass in stoppage time.