AS classics go, this was as thrilling as they come. There might not have been relegation or a title triumph riding on it, but Newcastle United showed just how powerful damaged pride can be by achieving the comeback of all comebacks against Arsenal.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew had every right to head for the Quayside on Saturday night to toast his side's heroics, while Arsene Wenger was left to contemplate the Gunners' collapse in one of the greatest turnarounds football has seen.
Never before has a team of the Premier League era fought back from four down at halftime to claim a point. Newcastle ensured, there has now.
For those angry Newcastle supporters, and there were hundreds of them, who decided to head for the exit ranting and raving at their manager after 26 minutes when Robin van Persie struck his second to put the Gunners four up they should be feeling a little differently this morning.
After a week in which leading striker Andy Carroll was sold for £35m and never replaced, Newcastle supporters' patience was further tested when they were subjected to a first half horror show.
But then, with a general feeling around the place that Newcastle's season could be on the verge of collapse, a breathtaking Newcastle somehow achieved the unthinkable.
They found the net not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in 22 second half minutes.
The scenes around St James' Park were more akin to a trophy success, which highlighted the nature of such an incredible afternoon's entertainment.
Pardew, who had calls for his resignation from one or two of the individuals that had decided to walk out early, was as stunned as the rest of St James' at the final whistle.
Ultimately, though, he could not hide how proud he was of the players he inherited shortly before Christmas.
I'm actually going in to town for the first time since I've been here and I don't know whether people are going to buy me a drink or throw them at me!
said Pardew. That's the sort of week it's been. I certainly hope they don't throw their drinks at me.
It's been a tough week to be a football manager here a tough, tough week and the toughest I've had here, as you can imagine. But at the end of it, I'm elated. It's just a weird feeling.
If we had conceded a fifth or sixth it could have got ugly here. That was a massive period of the season for us. I'm so so delighted for the club.
The mere fact Pardew could describe his delight at the final whistle illustrated the unique events, having been forced to endure a dreadful opening half in which Arsenal looked every inch title winners.
There was a sign of things to come with just 42 seconds gone.
Abou Diaby's long pass was flicked forward perfectly by Andrey Arshavin and Theo Walcott burst behind a static defence before slotting in to Steve Harper's bottom right.
It was two inside three minutes.
This time Johan Djourou was allowed to arrive to meet another Arshavin delivery, this time from a set-piece, with a terrific header.
When Walcott was allowed to roll to van Persie, who turned in his first of the afternoon, inside ten minutes there was a worry inside St James' that Newcastle were going to be subjected to a humiliating home defeat.
And van Persie's second, when a woeful Mike Williamson stood back and watched him make his move to meet Bacary Sagna's cross from the right, with 19 minutes remaining of the opening half only fuelled that belief.
Pardew said: It was not how to approach a Premier League game. You've got to pressure people, tackle people, turn people around, force them into errors.
You can force any team into errors.
Part of my message was that you can't sulk in front of 52,000 people at St James' Park.
They were letting themselves down more than anyone else.
If I was a fan, I'd be questioning the manager about the preparation of that team. The truth is I even felt before the game that it didn't feel right. I could sense something wrong.
We were genuinely feeling sorry for ourselves.
There was a hangover from the events of this week and to some degree some of the players maybe they were asking is it all about Andy Carroll' Well it isn't. It's about Newcastle and they showed that.
Just four minutes into the second half, Diaby took matters in to his own hands when he reacted angrily to Joey Barton's crunching, but fair, one-footed challenge.
Arsenal's Frenchman stood up, got hold of Barton by the neck and threw him to the floor.
If referee Phil Dowd was not thinking about giving him a red card then, he had little choice when Diaby also pushed Kevin Nolan to the ground when he attempted to help Barton.
Newcastle had been given lift off. Danny Simpson had already been denied by Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Laurent Koscielny was deemed to have tripped Leon Best in the area.
Barton's unbelievable drive epitomised the Newcastle recovery and it was fitting he calmly sent Szczesny the wrong way from the spot. Even at that stage, with 22 minutes remaining, the mission looked impossible.
Best, hopeless beforehand, had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside before he did add the second seven minutes later. He had two attempts to convert Jose Enrique's deep centre from the left.
Once Barton had netted a second penalty, this time courtesy of Dowd's ridiculous decision to penalise Koscielny for merely jumping with Williamson for a header, the stage was set for the great finale.
Newcastle had six minutes to find the equaliser it took them four. Barton's free-kick was headed clear by Gael Clichy, but Cheik Tiote lurking outside the box struck an exceptional left-foot volley that arrowed into Szczesny's bottom right corner. Even then Nolan came within inches of hitting an injury- time winner.
Having been four down with 22 minutes remaining, however, Pardew was not complaining too much and he was celebrating along with 50,000 Geordies when Tiote's stunning strike flew in.
I hope I don't end up on YouTube like I did against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup semifinal a few years back for West Ham, he said, about his touchline dance in 2006. But it certainly felt good. It was a tough day in a lot of ways. It was astonishing.
Match facts Goals:
0-1: Walcott (1, broke in behind Newcastle defence before slotting to Harper's right)
0-2: Djourou (3, powerfully headed Arshavin's free-kick beyond Harper from six yards)
0-3: van Persie (10, side-footed Walcott's centre perfectly past the goalkeeper)
0-4: van Persie (26, left Williamson behind and then met Sagna's cross with a perfect header)
1-4: Barton pen (68, sent Szczesny the wrong way after Best had been fouled in the area)
2-4: Best (75, at the second time of asking he put Enrique's cross away)
3-4: Barton pen (84, Szczesny got a foot to it but not enough to stop)
4-4: Tiote (88, connected to a clearance with a stunning left foot volley that deserved more than the point)
Bookings: Szczesny (69, unsporting behaviour); Nolan (69, unsporting behaviour), Eboue (82, dissent); Sagna (82, unsporting behaviour); Enrique (90, unsporting behaviour)
Sent-off: Diaby (50, violent conduct)
Referee: Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent) - question marks should be raised over the second penalty and a few other decisions, but he was right to red card and Diaby 4
Attendance: 51, 561
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-4-1-1):
7 Harper: Made a couple of saves but will still be unhappy at allowing four goals through;
7 Simpson: The player closest to scoring for Newcastle until Barton grabbed his first penalty
5 Williamson: An atrocious first half display did improve along with the rest of the team
5 Coloccini: Not quite as bad as Williamson in the first half, but not far off
7 Enrique: After a shaky start with the rest of his team-mates, the Spaniard showed why he is highly rated after the restart;
5 Lovenkrands: Failed to make a mark on the game, even if he spent the first half on the right
8 BARTON: Scored two penalties and he led the revival with a dogged and determined second half display
8 Tiote: He will remember his first Premier League goal for the rest of his life
6 Gutierrez: There were too many times when he failed to find his man with the ball, but still provided an outlet down the flank;
6 Nolan: Has had better days but was unfortunate when his late strike flew inches wide when he could have won it;
5 Best: Scored but that was about it and he will need to do more to stay in the team
Ranger (for Lovenkrands 73)
Guthrie (for Best 90)
(not used): Krul(gk), Perch, Ferguson, Richardson, Campbell.
Szczesny 5; Sagna 7, DJOUROU 8 (Squillaci 49, 4), Koscielny 5, Clichy 5; Wilshere 6, Diaby 4; Walcott 6 (Eboue 79), Fabregas 6, Arshavin 7 (Rosicky 70, 5); van Persie 7.
Subs (not used): Gibbs, Chamakh, Bendtner, Almunia (gk)
MAN OF THE MATCH
JOEY Barton you can't help but feel he would be in the England squad had it not been for his previous misdemeanours.