Ahmed Elmohamady and Steve Bruce go back a long way. The Egypt wing-back has been signed by the Newcastle manager at three separate clubs and some on Tyneside were surprised he did not follow his mentor to the north-east last summer.
Instead, Elmohamady stayed put at Aston Villa and on Wednesday night, on as a substitute, he bit the hand that once fed him by heading Conor Hourihane’s whipped-in corner beneath Martin Dubravka, who was arguably at fault.
Given that it earned Villa a potentially vital late point in their struggle to escape the relegation zone Elmohamady will not care that, along the way, he denied an old friend the chance to properly get his own back.
Revenge comes in many forms and, true to his essentially affable, largely forgiving, character, Bruce sought a rather gentlemanly form of attrition against the club which, in considerable acrimony, sacked him almost two years ago.
Before kick-off he was seen laughing and joking with Dean Smith, Jack Grealish and John McGinn but no one was deceived.
Villa had ignored Premier League advice to fly to fixtures on matchdays and instead left Birmingham airport on Tuesday lunchtime, enjoying an overnight hotel stay.
The rest seemed to have done them good as Trézéguet’s early-half volley flew off-target from Ezra Konsa’s gorgeous delivery.
When Konsa curled in another fine cross Mbwana Samatta’s direction, the striker should have headed Villa into a deserved lead but Samatta appeared fractionally slow to react and his sub-standard flick flew well wide.
On a still, warm summer night Grealish, Konsa, Tyrone Mings and company looked anything but relegation candidates. Initially fluency personified, they left Newcastle sometimes chasing the early evening shadows lengthening across the pitch.
While every Villa pass seemed to come with incision and precision Mings commanded his defence with authority to leave even the free spirited Allan Saint-Maximin cowtowing and conforming.
Newcastle, a little one-paced, underwhelmed until late in the first half when, most notably Saint-Maximin, they finally emerged from hibernation. Yet until the moment when Mings showed his class courtesy of a splendid, possibly goal-preventing tackle on Joelinton, they had struggled to do anything much with chunks of possession.
That apart, the biggest first‑half home opportunity arrived when, with Jonjo Shelvey shaping to take a free-kick, Douglas Luiz looked to have butted Jamaal Lascelles. A lengthy VAR review ensued but the verdict was a yellow rather than a red card.
Even so, as Ørjan Nyland was finally called into action early in the second-half to divert Matt Ritchie’s shot and the earlier visiting gloss appeared to be fading.
As the breeze finally picked up Bruce replaced Joelinton with Andy Carroll. Could the finally fully-fit striker – set to sign a new one-year deal here – whip up the wind of change his side needed? Just to be on the safe side the manager also introduced a Gayle – Dwight.
Talk about inspired substitutions. Gayle, very much Newcastle’s invisible man this season, had barely been on the pitch a minute when his low, angled, right-foot shot passed through Nyland’s legs to give Newcastle the lead with his first Premier League goal for two years. It was created by Carroll’s clever, Mings-confounding, curved pass.
Little did a celebrating Bruce know that Elmohamady was about to jog his memory in such unexpectedly cruel fashion. “I’m disappointed,” Bruce said. “I think a lot of Elmo but maybe I should have left him in Egypt all those years ago.”