NEWCASTLE UNITED were hit by a stoppage-time sucker-punch as they suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth.

Steve Cook’s header in the first minute of stoppage time proved the difference in a closely-fought affair that saw both sides hit the woodwork.

Newcastle dominated the opening half-hour, carving out a series of good chances, but were unable to make their superiority count.

Matt Ritchie hit the post, with Dwight Gayle’s rebound being controversially ruled out for offside, but Bournemouth improved markedly in the second half and came close themselves with a minute left when Marc Pugh struck the upright.

That looked like being that, but Cook rose highest to head home in injury-time to condemn Newcastle to their second 1-0 defeat in the space of five days and send Rafael Benitez’s side into the bottom half of the table.

Having watched his side struggle to create chances in Monday’s 1-0 defeat at Burnley, Benitez opted for a change in formation. With Gayle coming into the side for Ayoze Perez, the Magpies switched to a 4-4-2 system. The change had an immediate effect.

Newcastle carved out four clear-cut chances in the opening 20 minutes, and while they were unable to exploit any of them to break the deadlock, their positive approach was in marked contrast to their less expansive play five days earlier.

The first opportunity came as early as the fifth minute, with Asmir Begovic tipping Ritchie’s fierce long-range strike around the post, and when Ritchie crossed from the right-hand side eight minutes later, Gayle saw a goalbound header blocked by Steve Cook.

Ritchie was at the heart of Newcastle’s impressive early play, and after Begovic tipped Christian Atsu’s goalbound effort over the crossbar, the Scottish winger came within inches of handing the hosts the lead.

Shuffling the ball onto his left foot close to the edge of the area, Ritchie clipped in a cross that struck the left-hand post. Gayle tapped in the rebound, but his effort was disallowed for offside. It was a close call, but replays suggested the striker was in line when the final defender when Ritchie’s initial shot was struck.

Newcastle’s dominance was evident the majority of the first half, and after cutting in from the left-hand side, Atsu looked to have curled into the far corner, only for the ball to deflect wide off the head of Simon Francis.

Joselu dragged a shot wide after Isaac Hayden’s tenacity had won possession in the Bournemouth half, but after being completely outclassed for the opening half-hour, the visitors improved in the closing stages of the first half.

Joshua King dragged a shot wide after driving towards the penalty area, and Rob Elliot was twice called into action in the ten minutes before the break.

The Magpies goalkeeper tipped Callum Wilson’s looped header over the bar after Francis crossed from the right, before holding on to King’s strike after the forward drilled in a low effort from an acute angle.

The second half initially followed an identical pattern to the first, with Newcastle once again starting brightly.

Begovic was called into action in the 48th minute, tipping Joselu’s downward header over the crossbar after the striker met Jonjo Shelvey’s cross at the back post, but when the next chance arrived shortly after, it was Bournemouth that should have broken the deadlock.

King released Wilson behind a static Newcastle defence, but with time to choose his spot, the Cherries striker stroked a tame effort into the side-netting. It was the best chance of the game, and should really have resulted in United falling behind.

Jamaal Lascelles was forced off moments later, having failed to shake off a knock he picked up in the first half, meaning Newcastle played the final 35 minutes with Ciaran Clark partnering Florian Lejeune at the back.

The pair combined effectively, although Elliot was called into action shortly after the hour mark to claim Marc Pugh’s header after the midfielder met King’s chipped cross.

Bournemouth were the better side in the final half-hour, although Atsu should have done better when he shanked a shot well wide after winning possession with ten minutes left.

The visitors went extremely close to claiming a winner with one minute left, with Pugh striking the woodwork. Charlie Daniels played in Pugh in the penalty area, and after stepping inside Lejeune, the midfielder drilled in a low effort that deflected on to the post off Elliot’s legs.

That looked like ensuring the game finished goalless, but Newcastle were to be hit by a sucker-punch in the first minute of stoppage time.

Andrew Surman swung over a corner from the right-hand side, and Cook displayed impressive desire as he out-jumped two Newcastle defenders to head home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Newcastle (4-4-2): Elliot; Yedlin, Lejeune, Lascelles (Clark 55), Manquillo; Ritchie, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu (Murphy 82); Gayle, Joselu (Perez 68).

Subs (not used): Darlow (gk), Gamez, Diame, Mitrovic.

Bournemouth (4-4-2): Begovic; Franic, Cook, Ake, Daniels; Ibe (Defoe 75), Surman, Pugh, Arter; Wilson (Smith 75), King.

Subs (not used): Boruc (gk), Gosling, Cook, Fraser, Mousset.