Tottenham were forced to settle for third spot in the Premier League after relegated Newcastle demolished Spurs 5-1 with 10 men at St James’ Park.
Two goals from Gini Wijnaldum, one for Aleksandar Mitrovic, plus late strikes from Daryl Janmaat and Rolando Aarons – the latter two after Newcastle had been reduced to 10 men following Mitrovic’s sending-off – sealed an extraordinary victory.
And coupled with Arsenal’s win over Aston Villa, it meant that Spurs – who had briefly reduced the deficit to 2-1 through Erik Lamela – would end a hugely promising season in third place and behind the Gunners once again.
It will come as scant consolation for Spurs that Harry Kane held on to his Golden Boot award despite barely threatening Karl Darlow’s goal, while the boost for already-doomed Newcastle will increase exponentially if Benitez is persuaded to stay for next season’s Championship campaign.
A low-key first period was notable only for the support for Benitez cascading around St James’ Park, and the inevitable plane hired by Sunderland fans trailing a banner reading: “Auf Wiedersehen Prem Tyne To Go”.
Christian Eriksen screwed the first shot wide for the visitors but the hosts settled better in the spring sunshine with Mitrovic in particular looking threatening as he sent an early effort squirming over the bar.
Newcastle’s more enthusiastic approach paid off in the 19th minute when Janmaat’s right-wing cross was only half-cleared by Toby Alderweireld and Mitrovic teed up Wijnaldum to poke home from close range.
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris plucked a Mitrovic effort out of the air but the visitors, doubtless still afflicted after coming up short in the title race, were hardly playing like a side in search of north London bragging rights.
Four minutes after Kyle Walker ballooned a helpless effort over the bar, Mitrovic rose above the defender at the other end to head home from a Sissoko cross and send the pro-Benitez chants into overdrive.
Eric Dier shot wide in the 55th minute as Spurs began their belated rally, then Kane’s first chance to confirm his place at the top of the scorers’ standings was denied by a fine interception by Jack Colback.
Lamela narrowed the deficit on the hour, ramming a shot through Darlow’s hands from a tight angle, and Spurs’ hopes increased the 67th minute when Mitrovic was dismissed for a raking challenge on Walker.
Just three minutes later, however, Sissoko tumbled in the box under pressure from Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, and Wijnaldum stepped up to send the resulting spot-kick past Lloris and effectively seal the visitors’ fate.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, and possibly to the chagrin of home supporters, the hosts responded with one of their best spells of the season, Sissoko bringing a brilliant save out of Lloris and Andros Townsend racing half the length of the pitch to fire at the keeper.
Substitute Aarons rammed home Newcastle’s fourth in the 86th minute moments after Townsend had rattled the bar, and one minute later Newcastle’s dismal season finished on a faintly ridiculous high when Janmaat drove the fifth past Lloris.