Waiting, so they say, is often worthwhile. It has been a test of patience for Alexander Isak, for Eddie Howe, for Newcastle supporters. But a pair of stoppage-time strikes – one in each half – turned around the on-field deficit, and cut another: fourth placed Tottenham are now within a point, and Newcastle have a game in hand.

Much was made of Howe last week suggesting that Isak, Newcastle’s record signing, was not yet ready for a full 90 minutes. What he meant was that Isak was, after a lengthy injury lay-off, still getting up to speed with the required intensity. The evidence a week, two starts and three goals later, is that Isak is ready.

After an evening of gliding, stretching defenders, of earlier stroking home a technically sublime equaliser, Isak rose with minutes to spare. His header struck Moussa Niakhaté’s hand, presenting one final chance from the penalty spot.

Up the Swede stepped, the boos booming around the ground. Cool, calm, and match winning, Isak placed the ball in the top corner. He has half a dozen goals now in the equivalent of just shy of seven games. “Confidence is key for any attacking player. The penalty was ice cool,” Howe said. “It was a top, top performance. He was a constant handful for Forest. His pace and trickery were evident.”

Does Isak have a ceiling? “I don’t believe so,” Howe responded. “There’s so much more that he is capable of giving. We knew we were signing a top, top player, capable of doing amazing things. I thought he showed that today. He’s got a huge part to play in our future.”

As Isak celebrated with the away fans, Howe and his bench jumped for joy. Steve Cooper was crestfallen. The concertina that is the Premier League relegation battle makes home comforts invaluable. Especially for Forest: 20 of their 26 points had been earned at the City Ground.

“It’s the worst way to lose, isn’t it?” said Cooper. “The main talking points were how we didn’t manage ourselves around the two goals. They are moments in the game where you just have to see it out. For us to make those decisions in the buildup is something you will get punished for at this level. That’s where my immediate frustration is.”

Spare a thought for poor Emmanuel Dennis. He could easily have left Forest in January but for the fact his options were limited to a Watford return. His elaborate social media announcement garnered much attention but since then, Dennis’s impact has been limited. His beautiful first-half opener will have trended, though.

Cooper had taken a calculated gamble, making a quartet of changes. The idea was clear; sit, frustrate and catch Newcastle on the break. Yet it took a Sven Botman horror moment to gift them an opportunity. Botman had shrugged off Andre Ayew and all appeared under control. He had not, though, spied Dennis’s run. Patience, feint, dinked finish. Beautiful delirium.

Otherwise, Forest’s most effective method was the wind-up. The referee, Paul Tierney, hardly helped. Jonjo Shelvey was seemingly keen to leave more than just a mental impression on his former teammates, yet escaped a booking until late on. Dennis did see yellow, having nicked ahead of Kieran Trippier while breaking forward; Cooper animatedly asked why. And he had a point.

Joe Willock had missed an early shot at glory, before both Isak (via three deflections) and Sean Longstaff (via just one). Willock’s cross then found Isak at the back post with the first half almost up. It was just behind the forward but Isak still shifted his body to level smartly.

Allan Saint-Maximin’s hamstring was tight and, with Miguel Almirón and Anthony Gordon both absent injured, Howe turned to the young prospect Elliot Anderson at the break. Soon after forcing a save from Keylor Navas, Anderson rose and planted a header that would have had another former Wallsend Boys Club graduate purring. “Duh, duh, duh, Geordie Maradona,” the travellers roared.

The celebrations had long since passed by the time the VAR screen of doom had appeared. Tierney determined that Longstaff had been offside. Howe confirmed he would have to check exactly why VAR intervened, before praising Anderson. “Actually breaking into the Premier League is incredibly difficult to do. This is the hardest part of his Newcastle career. Can he make the step up? He certainly did himself no harm tonight.”

The noise that greeted news of the disallowed goal could have caused waves that breached the Trent’s banks, but Forest could not build on that momentum. Newcastle’s profligacy looked like it would cost them, again. Then Isak intervened. “A huge moment for us in our season,” Howe said.

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