Newcastle United have earned immediate promotion back to the Premier League after emphatically beating Preston North End 4-1 at St James' Park on Monday (24 April).
Rafa Benitez's men lumbered and laboured to the promotion finish line but have now confirmed their place in the English top-flight for next season after making light work of Simon Grayson's side, who were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Paul Gallagher handled a goalbound effort on the line.
A double from Ayoze Perez, a calm Christian Atsu finish and a Matt Ritchie penalty secured victory and promotion for Newcastle, who were pegged back by a wondrous Jordan Hugill finish after quarter of an hour.
Perez, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Jonjo Shelvey all missed chances to increase their side's advantage, but their profligacy mattered not. Preston were soundly beaten in the end, though they did manage to cause a few problems during the first half and scored at St James' Park for the first time since 1979. Focus for the Magpies now turns to pipping Brighton and Hove Albion to the Championship title, but Chris Hughton's men are sitting pretty at the summit of the league, four points clear of Newcastle with just two games left.
The result, combined with Reading and Huddersfield's failure to win on the weekend, meant that the north east outfit became only the second side in five seasons to secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Newcastle's promotion was the third Benitez has masterminded during his career - he guided Extremadura to La Liga in 1998 and dragged Sevilla to the first tier of Spanish football in 2001.
"I'm really proud," Benitez said after the match. "I have to congratulate my staff, the fans, the city, all the people involved. It's been a long season but we deserved [promotion] because the players have worked so hard, pushing in the face of adversity.
"It doesn't matter how, from the beginning we were working so hard. It's hard being relegated and having to rebuild, but we're really pleased. We have had to fight from the beginning but in the end we won and we go up.
"It's clear that on the last day on of last season, I wanted to show my loyalty and rebuild a new team with the idea to go up the first time. I think I will have to analyse a lot of things, but I am really pleased here. Today is here to enjoy, and after that we will try for the title."
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