Hodgson replaced Zaha with Ruben Loftus-Cheek after 77 minutes with the score at 0-0 in a move that surprised a section of the Palace support.
Zaha appeared disappointed to be taken off and, after Loftus-Cheek had created a good chance for Palace, Newcastle went on to score a late winner.
“Wilf wants to play every minute of every game,” said Hodgson as he explained why he brought off Zaha.
“But he was tiring because we asked a lot of him and Andros [Townsend] up front.
“They work very hard to create for us and also to defend for us.
“Ruben can cause a threat coming from deep and we thought it might be a good idea to give Wilf a rest and get fresh legs on.”
The defeat means Palace are still bottom of the Premier League table and five points from safety.