It was just one goal, so it's impossible to claim that Papiss Cisse is back to the form that made him the Premier League's most captivating striker in the second half of last season.
But with one dipping volley, Cisse showed the sort of self belief that's been sadly lacking in his performances for most of the season. All players are fueled by confidence to a certain extent, and strikers in particular are dependent on it. The difference with Cisse is that when he doesn't have the self-assuredness to try headline-grabbing goals, his overall game isn't strong enough to make up for it.
In many ways, Cisse is an awkward fit to play as a lone central striker. His strengths aren't in holding up the ball and bringing his fellow attackers into play. In Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, though, Newcastle has two players who are capable of covering more than their fair share of ground and taking on some of the onus of linking the attack.
And when Cisse scores goals out of nowhere like the one he did today, he more than makes up for his defincencies.
A mixed bag at the back
After reshuffling for Thursday's trip to Ukraine, Alan Pardew reverted to the backline he's utilized during Newcastle's mini-surge up the wrong end of the Premier League table: Mathieu Debuchy at right back, Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini in the center and Davide Santon at left back.
Of course, Pardew was forced into one major change, with Rob Elliot replacing an injured Tim Krul. Elliot wasn't afforded an easy start to his first Premier League appearance — his first touch of the ball was picking it out of the back of the net — but performed adequately while displaying some impressive distribution.
It was a different story for the players in front of him. Taylor wasn't close enough to Morgan Schneiderlin on Southampton's opening goal and also lost track of Rickie Lambert on the visitors' second.
Santon was horribly out of position in the leadup to Lambert's goal, and Southampton intelligently took advantage by attacking down Newcastle's left flank. The Italian also continued to look predictable when venturing forward, cutting inside on his right foot time after time after time. He finally decided to go to the outside and use his left foot in the 79th minute and his cross resulted in a Saints own goal.
On the bright side, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa impressed after replacing Fabricio Coloccini late in the first half after Newcastle's captain hobbled off. It was always merely a matter of time before Yanga-Mbiwa got his chance at center back in Premier League play, and he showed why there are such high expectations for him.
Debuchy was beaten in the air by Lambert on Schneiderlin's goal, but the French fullback had one of his best games since arriving last month. He was a constant threat going forward, making intelligent runs, and defended sternly.
Cheick Tiote made a few trademark firm challenges. But the Ivorian destroyer, sporting a new bleached blond mohawk, played a noticeably more controlled game than he has for much of the season.
While Tiote was away at the Africa Cup of Nations last month, James Perch filled in capably by playing efficient — keeping things simple in possession and picking his spots for tackling. Tiote has struggled in both of those areas this season.
And while he did add a more expansive element to Newcastle's midfield with some cross-field diagonals, for the most part Tiote was quite measured in his decision making on the ball. He added energy to the midfield, oftentimes pushing forward further than central partner Yohan Cabaye.
If this is the Tiote Newcastle will have for the rest of the season, it's yet another reason for optimism.