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Alan Pardew had dared Newcastle United to dream of Champions League qualification and they are starting to play with all the conviction and class of a top-four side.

This was Newcastle’s sixth successive league win and of the four teams competing for the two remaining places at European football’s top table, they are not only in the best form, they are also playing the best football.

It would be a nightmare for Arsenal, Chelsea or Tottenham if they missed out on the Champions League treasure trove, but Newcastle have exceeded expectations and they are playing with the freedom and confidence that comes with it.

There is no suggestion they will freeze with such a tantalising prize within their reach. If anything, the closer they get to gatecrashing Europe’s most prestigious competition, the better they play.

“We were accomplished today,” said Pardew. “When we got the first goal it set us up and we looked comfortable from that moment. We’ve put pressure on the other teams in that fight for a Champions League place. We’ve got momentum and it’s a dangerous tool to have in your locker.

“We’re playing with confidence and we’re in a fantastic position. To win six on the trot is truly outstanding. We have a chance to do something really special with four games to go.”

Stoke City were blown away by two goals in four first-half minutes from Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Demba Cissé, his 11th in 10 games. That equals Micky Quinn’s record for the best ever start by a Premier League striker and the £10 million paid in January to Freiburg for his services looks like one of the bargains of the season.

Newcastle controlled possession and the game before scoring a third – and Cabaye’s second – after the break. They were unimpressive in the early exchanges, but glided through the gears and Stoke could not live with them.

First Hatem Ben Arfa, drifting across from his starting position on the right flank to the left, was given the ball on the touchline by Davide Santon. Stoke full-back Marc Wilson appeared to be taking the France international away from goal, but a delicate shift of balance took the Newcastle player past his marker.

A deep cross found the head of Cissé, but for once his finish was less than clinical, the ball looping on to the crossbar. Cabaye, though, followed up and nodded the ball over the line.

Four minutes later, Newcastle were two up thanks to the same combination, Cabaye spotting the diagonal run in behind the Stoke defence with a millimetre-perfect through ball.

Cissé only had a yard of space to work with, but he still guided a first-time shot past Asmir Begovic. “That will go down as one of the best passes of the season,” added Pardew.

“I couldn’t see the run from Cissé but he has not only spotted it, he has managed to manoeuvre the ball through a crowd of players to find him.”

Newcastle were content with that for the rest of the half and Stoke rarely looked like pulling a goal back before half-time. Indeed, their best chance came their way when the scores were still level. Jonathan Walters made a mess of a volley after Peter Crouch had nodded the ball down to him inside the area.

Newcastle looked even more assured after the break and made it 3-0 with more than half an hour left to play when Cabaye swept in a shot from the edge of the area that curled round the diving body of Begovic.

The only thing missing for the home fans was a goal for Demba Ba. He should have ended a run of nine games without one too, but he tried to take Ben Arfa’s cross down on his chest on the edge of the six-yard box when he should have headed it first time.

Other chances came and went and Cissé put the ball in the net after Begovic had spilt a deflected drive from Ba, only for it to be ruled out by an offside flag.

Begovic also made one brilliant save to deny Cheick Tioté, but Stoke might have made the scoreline look a little more respectable had Walters not wasted two good openings.

He sliced wide after Ben Arfa had gifted him possession and blazed over the bar after he was played in by winger Matthew Etherington.

It has been a long season for Stoke with their Europa League campaign, but they could have few complaints about the poor result despite Tony Pulis’s attempts to paint it in a positive light.

“The difference between the two sides was when they had a good opportunity they hit the target and we didn’t,” said the Stoke manager. “Jonathan Walters, who has been fantastic for us, could have had a hat-trick.”

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