Gareth Bale has been very much in the headlines lately, with the preposterous assertion that he was "better than Ronaldo" quickly followed up by the suggestion by Andre Villas-Boas that he was the best player in the Premier League. That was met with far less incredulity, and today will go some way to explaining why.
Bale showed a very early glimpse of what was to come by immediately creating the first chance of the game with a typical run down the left to provide an inviting cross for Clint Dempsey, but the American could not reach the ball in time to divert it goalwards - also, perhaps, an indicator of the rest of the game the former Fulham man was to have.
Dempsey did, however, have a significant hand in the breakthrough, forcing Fabricio Coloccini to bring him down while attempting to turn and shoot. Bale stepped up to take the free-kick and curled a superb effort into the top corner that gave TIm Krul no chance - although a mysterious lack of jumping from the wall was also to blame.
Newcastle were all over the place, but after two more Spurs efforts from Bale and Lewis Holtby, the Magpies appeared to get themselves in order, and soon created a fine chance themselves, Coloccini's cross from the left finding Papiss Cisse, but the Senegalese striker headed wide when he should at least have hit the target. Newcastle's good play would soon be rewarded, however, when Moussa Sissoko's ball into the area found Yoan Gouffran, and his goalbound effort took a huge deflection off Michael Dawson to deceive Hugo Lloris and level the scores.
The rest of the half was much the same as what had gone before and what would come after - end-to-end counter-attacking, and Gareth Bale looking unstoppable. The Welshman had two more good runs before the half ended, but could not find a teammate with either of his crosses, while Michael Dawson was also called into action to deny Yohan Cabaye's fierce drive with a desperate block.
Tottenham looked to attempt a more measured style of play after the break, but the pace of the game soon forced them back into a more energetic style. That was also to Newcastle's benefit, however, and after surviving yet more danger from Bale and Holtby, the excellent Steven Taylor almost scored as he got on the end of a half-cleared cross to send in a decent effort, but it was too close to Lloris.
Bad news was to follow for Newcastle after the goalscorer, Gouffran, appeared to be injured by Kyle Walker - the clash looked inocuous, but a stretcher and oxygen were required over fears the Frenchman may have broken his leg. There was then a huge worry for Spurs after Gareth Bale appeared to pick up an injury too, but he was able to play on.
Spurs will now be thankful that he did. Tottenham were struggling for fluency, with a series of wayward passes and poor touches disrupting their play in the final third, but Bale was on hand to rescue them again. With just over ten minutes remaining on the clock, he raced onto a loose ball being contested by Emmanuel Adebayor and Fabricio Coloccini, bursting into the clear with explosive pace and pulling off a supremely calm finish between Tim Krul's legs to give Spurs the lead.
Tottenham were relieved, but they could not afford to relax. Both sides continued to attack, and Newcastle almost snatched a point when Shola Ameobi was fortunate to receive the ball in the area, but the fantastic Lloris was quickly off his line to get a touch on the ball and divert it wide. Incredibly, Gareth Bale would have another two chances to claim his hat-trick from Tottenham breakaways, one blazing over from six yards and then being unlucky to see Krul save a similar effort.