The Doomsday Clock was moved to 90 seconds to midnight on Tuesday, the closest it has ever been. Here, Newcastle moved to within 90 minutes of Wembley – and it certainly would feel like the end of the world for Eddie Howe and his players were they to surrender this one-goal advantage next week.
The planet’s annihilation is the least of their concerns right now. For while scientists have warned we are edging towards armageddon and have adjusted their symbolic clock accordingly, a new era is only just beginning at St James’ Park.
Had you, as recently as 18 months ago, predicted they would now be third in the Premier League and closing in on silverware for the first time in 54 years, those same men in white coats may well have been called in. Instead, it is the men in black and white stripes who are finding the right formula.
After missing an open goal, Joelinton scored the only goal of the game for the visiting Magpies
Adam Armstrong thought he had equalised for his side but the effort was ruled out for handball
Joelinton had the ball in the back of the net in the first half but it was disallowed for handball
Match Facts and Player Ratings
Southampton FC (4-2-3-1): Bazunu 6; Walker-Peters 6.5 (Bednarek 88′), Lyanco 6, Caleta-Car 6, Salisu 7; Diallo 6.5 (Lavia 82), Alcaraz 6.5; Djenepo 5 (Armstrong 45, 6.5), Ward-Prowse 7, Orsic 5.5 (Adams 57, 5); Mara 6 (Edozie 57, 5)
Subs: Caballero, Maitland-Niles, Elyounoussi, Perraud
Manager: Nathan Jones
Bookings: Caleta-Car, Alcarez, Salisu, Lyanco, Walter-Pters
Sent off: Caleta-Car
Newcastle United FC (4-3-3): Pope 8; Trippier 6, Schar 6, Botman 7, Burn 6; Longstaff 6, Guimaraes 7, Willock 6 (Saint-Maximin 67, 6); Almiron 6.5, Wilson 5.5 (Isak 67, 7), Joelinton 7
Subs: Darlow, Lascelles, Saint-Maximin, Ritchie, Lewis, Isak, Manquillo, Murphy, Anderson
Manager: Eddie Howe
Bookings: Saint-Maximin, Trippier
Ref: S Attwell 6
This was not their best performance, but Joelinton, on the back of a goal controversially disallowed and a miss he would sooner forget, struck lucky at the third attempt by scoring the winner 17 minutes from time.
A mention for creator Alexander Isak, the £60million substitute who burned by Duje Caleta-Car and centred for his team-mate, who could not miss. Saying that, he had ballooned over from the same patch of grass 20 minutes earlier.
At the other end, Nick Pope made it 10 straight clean sheets and he was busy after the break, twice saving brilliantly from Che Adams at 0-0 with the Saints in the ascendancy.
Given that run of shutouts, maybe we are safe to assume Newcastle are as good as in the final.
But they were also fortunate when Adam Armstrong’s late equaliser was ruled out for handball. It was the right call, if somewhat harsh given the accidental nature of it. Fortune shone on Newcastle again when Caleta-Car was then sent off for a second yellow card following a chop on Allan Saint-Maximin.
Their route to this point has been just as kind. A trip to League Two Tranmere was followed by home ties against Premier League opposition outside the top six.
Even Southampton’s unlikely defeat of Manchester City in the quarter-final had the feel of the stars aligning.
Because of that, supporters journeyed here more in expectation than hope. As they left the train at Kings Cross before catching their connection to the South Coast, many of them would have been able to point out their hotel.
Not for this game. But for the final at Wembley on February 26. They will be confirming those bookings now.
For Southampton’s Nathan Jones, the cup competitions have been more than a distraction – they have been a lifeline.
Duje Caleta-Car was shown a second yellow towards the end for a foul on Allan Saint-Maximin
Moussa Djenepo was substituted before half-time after a collision with Newcastle’s Nick Pope
Striker Alexander Isak came off the bench to set up Joelinton’s opening goal with a brilliant run
It feels like supporters are already waiting to chase their new Welsh boss back to the valleys of Rhondda. Not that he would run. He is a spiky so-and-so and that much was evident by his touchline demeanour here. Frogs in a box are comparatively sane. If only his team played with the same energy every week.
But for a home side in a first leg of opportunity, Saints began far too passively. Come the break, Pope had taken to beyond 15 hours the time since he last conceded. Newcastle had been the better team in the opening 45 minutes.
Howe prickled at the weekend when it was put to him that some of his players looked tired. Tired, he felt, was such opinion. He responded by naming the same XI from the previous three matches and they started like the trains on which their 3,000 followers had sped from the opposite end of the country earlier in the day.
The Brazilian star was heavily involved up front for the visitors in the first leg of the semi-final
Boss Eddie Howe was left confused after VAR did not overturn the on-field decision of handball
The early stages were played at a brilliant pace with both sides battling hard for the opener
For all of that early dominance, they did not score, and after one goal in their last four league games, questions have been asked as to the sharpness of forwards Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron. Just don’t call it tiredness.
Newcastle did have the ball in the net when Joelinton turned in from close range on 39 minutes. Stuart Attwell immediately blew for a handball by the Brazilian and, with no clear evidence to the contrary, VAR stuck with the referee’s decision. That was the right call, even if Attwell’s was perhaps wrong.
Joelinton should have bypassed the need for any Stockley Park review when Almiron’s cross was deflected to his unmarked feet, just six yards out, shortly after half-time. With a gaping target all he had to do was find it. Instead, he found a way to miss, spooning way over the crossbar.
He made no mistake when presented with the same chance following Isak’s fine work – Howe called his contribution ‘exceptional’ – as Newcastle edged one step closer to their date with destiny. So long as the Doomsday Clock does not first strike midnight.
Nathan Jones thought Southampton had grabbed an equaliser within minutes of going behind
There were seven bookings and a sending-off in the tense encounter at St. Mary’s Stadium
Jacob Murphy was seen teasing Croatian star Caleta-Car as he left the field after his red card