London (AFP) - Matt Ritchie shrugged off a serious refereeing blunder to secure Newcastle a 1-0 win over Championship strugglers Burton and push the Magpies closer to an immediate return to the Premier League on Wednesday.
Ritchie's second-half goal eased the Newcastle players frayed tempers after a bizarre incident in the first-half when the same player converted a penalty only for referee Kevin Stroud to disallow the goal and award Burton a freekick.
This provoked a five-minute stand-off with the players questioning Stroud's call.
After the match the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body which oversees refereeing, issued a statement in which Stroud apologised for the error.
"In Wednesday evening's EFL Championship game between Newcastle United and Burton Albion, referee Keith Stroud awarded Newcastle a penalty in the 29th minute," read the statement.
"As Matt Ritchie took the kick, Dwight Gayle encroached in the penalty area. An indirect free-kick was awarded to Burton, but the Laws of the Game state that that the penalty kick should have been retaken.
"Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake."
Newcastle's win saw them leapfrog long-time fellow pacesetters Brighton - who beat Birminhgam 3-1 on Tuesday - and lead them by a point.
The top two earn automatic promotion to the Premier League while the next four sides enter the play-offs to decide the third team.