Newcastle 2 Wigan 1
Shola Ameobi rose to the challenge of replacing Alan Shearer as Newcastle launched the new Barclays Premiership campaign with a hard-fought victory over Wigan.
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The 24-year-old fired home the winning goal on 64 minutes to hand Glenn Roeder's men three points just as it looked as though they had surrendered at least two of them.
Skipper Scott Parker had headed the Magpies into a 38th-minute lead, but Newcastle's defensive frailty struck once again 14 minutes after the break as Lee McCulloch levelled.
But with his side struggling, Ameobi converted after Chris Kirkland could only block Charles N'Zogbia's stinging drive to claim victory in front of a crowd of 51,569.
The visitors, who had earlier hit the post through Henri Camara and seen Shay Given keep out a McCulloch header and Nolberto Solano hack an Arjan De Zeeuw effort off the line, will feel they should have left with at least a point.
But Ameobi's intervention justified Roeder's belief in his team with three new signings in the pipeline.
The big talking point on Tyneside all summer has been the task of replacing retired skipper Shearer and the injured Michael Owen, and while Roeder remains optimistic for a successful campaign, there was a sense of trepidation at St James' Park as torrential rain heralded the start of a new era.
But by the time the half-time whistle sounded, some, if not all, of the fans' fears had been quelled.
A half played on a treacherous surface saw Ameobi lead the line well, new signing Damien Duff cause problems and Given once again at his excellent best.
There was also closure for midfielder Nicky Butt, starting his first Barclays Premiership game for the club in 16 months.
The former England international's days at St James' seemed to have drawn to a close when he was sent out on loan to Birmingham after apparently failing to ackowledge supporters at the end of the FA Cup semi-final defeat by former club Manchester United two seasons ago.
However, he was applauded warmly from the pitch when he was forced to make a premature exit after a clash of heads.
But perhaps most significantly, Parker, the man handed the armband in the wake of Shearer's swansong, took over the Geordie legend's mantle in more ways than one.
Not only did he lead by example, but he who made the decisive contribution seven minutes before the break to put his side ahead.
Ameobi did well to control Stephen Carr's long ball on his chest and then twist and turn before delivering an inviting cross from his captain to plant an emphatic header past Kirkland.
The on-loan Liverpool keeper had earlier tipped away a long-range Parker drive and a Nolberto Solano header, but the Magpies did not have it all their own way.
Wigan, with six new arrivals in their starting line-up, held their own for much of the half with record signing Heskey and Camara causing problems.
Camara was unfortunate not to level two minutes before the break when his header came back of the foot of the post, and Given had earlier had to claw away a McCulloch effort.
Newcastle re-emerged determined to kill the game off and they might have done so within two minutes when Solano met Emre's quickly-taken free-kick with a lob which sailed just over Kirkland's crossbar.
But Dutchman Denny Landzaat might have dragged his side back into it on 53 minutes after substitute Steven Taylor fouled Heskey 20 yards out, only to drill his free-kick high over.
Solano had to come to the home side's rescue two minutes later when De Zeeuw climbed high to head a Landzaat corner towards goal and he hacked the ball off his own line.
The reprieve proved to be only temporary and when Carr made a mess of clearing a long ball, Heskey headed down for McCulloch to curl an equaliser through a crowded penalty area and past Given.
But just as Wigan sensed an opportunity with Newcastle in disarray, Ameobi chose his moment to strike.
Substitute Charles N'Zogbia surged forward before unleashing a long-range effort which Kirkland could only parry, and the striker supplied a Shearer-like finish to raise the roof.
However, the game was far from over and Landzaat might have spoiled the party had he kept his shot down from Camara's 80th-minute cross.
The pressure was intense as time ran down and Camara saw an 84th-minute shot deflected just wide and a penalty appeal against Tirus Bramble waved away, but the Magpies managed to hold out to claim the points.
Newcastle Given, Carr, Bramble, Moore (Taylor 45), Babayaro,Solano, Parker, Butt (N'Zogbia 16), Emre, Duff,Ameobi (Luque 76).
Subs Not Used: Harper, Milner.
Goals: Parker 38, Ameobi 64.
Wigan Kirkland, Boyce, De Zeeuw, Hall, Baines,Valencia (Connolly 90), Scharner, Landzaat (Kavanagh 87),McCulloch, Heskey, Camara.
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Jackson, Wright.
Booked: Heskey, Valencia.
Goals: McCulloch 59.
Ref: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).