(Reuters) - Dwight Gayle scored a hat-trick as Newcastle United roared back to the top of the Championship on Saturday with a 4-0 thrashing of Birmingham City.
The number nine shirt has always had particular reverence at St James’ Park, with the likes of Jackie Milburn, Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Shearer having worn it with such distinction for Newcastle down the years.
Now Gayle, who has quickly become the new Tyneside hero since his summer transfer from Crystal Palace, is following in the rich tradition, albeit in England’s second-tier competition, as he took his league-leading tally of goals to 16.
Gayle found the target twice in the space of six minutes halfway through the first half before completing his hat-trick from Jonjo Shelvey’s 77th-minute pass.
Yoan Gouffran scored Newcastle’s other goal as Rafa Benitez’s buoyant side clambered back one point ahead of Brighton and Hove Albion, who had gone top on Friday night with their 2-0 victory over Leeds United.
Reading, enjoying a fine campaign under former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam, kept up their pursuit in third place, earning a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday, with a double from Roy Beerens.
Huddersfield Town are a further four points behind in fourth place after they ended their five-game spell without a win, beating Bristol City 2-1 thanks to a 58th minute winner from Nahki Wells.
Match of the day in the division was a remarkable 4-4 draw between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham at Molineux, with visiting Togolese striker Floyd Ayite heading home the equaliser, his second of the game, in the 94th minute.
There was drama of a different kind at Ipswich Town, where Cardiff City centre-back Sol Bamba exploded with rage after a heavy challenge on him.
The Ivory coast defender confronted his own physio, who was treating him, then other players, the referee and even his manager, Neil Warnock, before taking on the fourth official and eventually being sent off.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Reporting by Ian Chadband,; Editing by Neville Dalton