Southampton fans began the game applauding former manager Alan Pardew on his return to St Mary's and ended it chanting the name of successor Nigel Adkins as their side moved out of the bottom three for the first time since August.
Pardew, fired by Southampton in August 2010, endured a miserable homecoming as his Newcastle side extended a worrying run of only one win in their last eight league games. The fact Southampton were denied by Tim Krul's woodwork three times and by numerous saves from the Dutch 'keeper emphasised the gap in class between Pardew's freefalling Magpies and the team he left behind.
That the opening goal 10 minutes before half-time came from the boot of home captain Adam Lallana, a player given his first*team breakthrough by Pardew, made the defeat even harder to take.
"The intensity and the energy that Southampton put on a pitch was a problem," admitted Pardew, whose misery was compounded by seeing defender Steven Taylor hobble off with a hamstring injury. "We were short of bodies and maybe playing Maribor on Thursday took a bit of the edge off us, but we were second best. We were soundly beaten."
Adkins stoked up the rivalry between Pardew and his former employers in the build-up by claiming the Newcastle manager could take none of the plaudits for their rise from 23rd in League One to the Premier League in two years.
Pardew suggested his dismissal was "harsh" but there was nothing unfair about a scoreline that did not fully reflect a very one-sided game. The only surprise was that it took until the 34th minute for Lallana to put Southampton in front.
Rickie Lambert thought he had opened the scoring two minutes earlier only for his 25-yard free-kick to hit Newcastle's crossbar. Krul had already saved smartly from Jason Puncheon and a Gaston Ramirez free-kick when he came racing out of his 18-yard area and played an attempted clearance straight to the feet of Nathaniel Clyne.
Taylor looked to have spared Krul's blushes by heading clear Clyne's ambitious long-range lob, but the loose ball was collected by Ramirez who unselfishly pulled a cross back for Lallana to tap home. Ramirez produced his best performance since becoming the Saints' record £11m signing on deadline day and was rewarded with a deserved second goal on the hour.
"The players were good today," said Adkins. "We are in the toughest, hardest league in the world and were punished in a big way at the start of the campaign. It shows how far we have come."