The opening quarter of an hour saw the visitors play comfortably the best football of the campaign so far as the Magpies were blown away in front of their expectant home crowd. Cleverley's weighted pass was headed down by Robin van Persie for Evans to brilliantly flick into the path of Danny Welbeck on five minutes but the striker could only supply a tame finish.
Van Persie's shot from a tight angle was kicked behind by Steve Harper and the Dutchman took the corner himself with Evans showing great desire to power home a towering header. The one-way traffic continued with Rafael doing brilliantly to collect a De Gea kick-out, linking with van Persie, and sending a thumping drive inches wide of Harper's right-hand upright.
It really should have been 2-0 in the 12th minute when Welbeck robbed a hesitant Harper and rode a desperate challenge from the keeper. With van Persie unmarked in the middle, the England international, off balance, was only able to drag the wrong side of the post.
Any concern that the glaring miss could prove costly proved unfounded as Rooney's free-kick was diverted behind by Harper's fingertips. From Rooney's resulting corner, Evra showed great movement to pop up in exactly the right place to nod home, prompting an inquest in the Newcastle defence about who should have been marking the Frenchman. Pardew regrouped his troops and the inevitable response started with Jonas Gutierrez whistling a drive off target, even if De Gea probably had it covered.