I have to begrudgingly accept that Steve Bruce has done Newcastle United a favour for once.

Friday night saw the former Sunderland boss on the south coast with his new Villa outfit against Brighton.

Taking a 20th minute lead through Nathan Baker, Brighton equalised through Glenn Murray just before half-time and that was the eventual scoreline.

Only two strikes on target for each team and Brighton having 59% possession – but Villa the better team with twice as many shots.

That result halts a four match winning run for Chris Hughton’s team, who also had the best record over the past 10 matches with 8 wins and 2 draws going into last night’s match.

This result gives Rafa Benitez a great chance to really put some distance between themselves and second placed Brighton, this is how the Championship table looks now:

37 Newcastle United

35 Brighton

29 Huddersfield Town

28 Reading          

27 Norwich City 

26 Leeds United 

25 Birmingham City          

24 Fulham

24 Bristol City     

24 Sheffield Wednesday

These are the other key matches at the top today:

Birmingham v Bristol City

Cardiff  v Huddersfield     

Fulham v Sheffield Wednesday

Queens Park Rangers v Norwich

Reading v Burton Albion

Ideally, Reading, Norwich and Huddersfield would all lose, with the Birmingham and Fulham matches being draws, this would produce the top six below (assuming Newcastle win as well):

Best case scenario after this weekend

40 Newcastle United

35 Brighton

29 Huddersfield Town

28 Reading          

27 Norwich City 

26 Leeds United 

A very attractive five points clear of Brighton, 11 ahead of third and 14 between ourselves and Leeds United.

However, if Newcastle lost and Reading, Norwich, Huddersfield, Birmingham and Fulham all won, we’d end up with the following:

Worst case scenario after this weekend

37 Newcastle United

35 Brighton

32 Huddersfield Town

31 Reading          

30 Norwich City 

29 Leeds United 

Despite Newcastle’s great run of seven wins in a row, it just shows how tough it is to really pull away from the chasing pack.

Rafa Benitez and his players are slowly but surely doing the job and reaching 40 points already this weekend would be a significant landmark.