TWO MOMENTS of first-half controversy firmly went against Huddersfield Town as Championship leaders Newcastle United made the most of the fortune afforded them to take a big step towards automatic promotion - as the Terriers’ own bid suffered a set-back.
Town were aghast when referee Roger East - handed a rough ride by home supporters at the interval and at the final whistle - pointed to the spot after Matt Ritchie went down in the tenth minute under minimal pressure from Nahki Wells, while replays showed that Jonjo Shelvey had handled the ball moments earlier.
East showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot after Ritchie tumbled, with the £10m winger picking himself up to emphatically dispatch the penalty past Danny Ward in front of a league record crowd at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Another huge moment went against Town on 32 minutes when Daryl Murphy - who went close with an early pile-driver - challenged Ward to a loose ball, with the Town keeper seemingly to gather the ball in one hand, only for the trailing leg of the Newcastle striker to knock it out of his grasp.
It was a moot point as to whether Ward had the moving ball under control, with Murphy following up to pounce on the loose ball and convert, with the covering Michael Hefele unable to block his effort.
Town forged a way back into proceedings from the spot on 72 minutes when Elias Kachunga went down under the challenge of Jonjo Shelvey - with Mooy netting as Huddersfield converted a penalty in the league for the first time since February 2015.
But the hosts could not find a leveller as Newcastle secured their fourth win this season in Yorkshire to move five points clear at the summit - and 11 ahead of third-placed Town, whose seven-match unbeaten league run ended.
Substitute Dwight Gayle added a late third when Town stranded upfield, with substitute keeper Joel Coleman - who came on at the break for Ward - misjudging a headed clearance and Gayle obligingly walked the ball into the empty net.
The two-goal first-half advantage gave Newcastle the perfect platform to sit back and protect their gains and while Town had their moments, particularly from distance, they couldn’t get behind the visitors’ organised rearguard for large parts of the game.
The intent was there, especially in a late finale, but Newcastle had the resolve to see the game out in a strong backs-to-the-wall showing in the final twenty minutes and add a late third through Gayle.
A piledriver from Philip Billing which was turned away impressively by Karl Darlow represented Town’s best first-half moment.
Darlow, protected well, also grasped a low shot from Izzy Brown and was called into action to turn away Aaron Mooy’s effort, with Town enjoying their best spell in the lead up to the break.
On the restart, Newcastle were happy to preserve their lead and sit in and frustrate Town before waiting for their moment to strike.
Wells spurned a decent free-kick opportunity, while centre backs Jamaal Lascelles and Ciaran Clark were in imposing form in open play, well supported by full-backs Vurnon Anita and Paul Dummett.
East, barracked by home supporters in the second period, then took centre stage again as Town were afforded a lifeline 18 minutes from time when the Wiltshire official again pointed to the spot after Kachunga went down under the challenge of Shelvey.
Mooy converted the penalty to set up a grandstand finale, sending Darlow the wrong way, but despite pressure, Town could not find a way through, with their best late moment coming when Rajiv Van La Parra’s shot was blocked.
A stoppage-time third from Gayle provided some flattering gloss for the Magpies.
Huddersfield Town: Ward (Coleman 45); Smith, Hefele, Schindler, Lowe (Quaner 86); Billing (Hogg 66), Mooy; Kachunga, Brown, Van La Parra; Wells. Substitutes unused: Hudson, Cranie, Payne, Lolley.
Newcastle United: Darlow; Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Colback (Gouffran 72); Atsu, Diame, Ritchie; Murphy (Gayle 66). Substitutes unused: Elliot, Hanley, Perez, Yedlin, Gamez.
Referee: R East (Wiltshire).
Attendance: 23,213 (league record at the John Smith’s Stadium).