As far as Newcastle United are concerned, pressure really is a privilege. Just as everyone began to suggest they would wobble and fall, with Liverpool and Manchester United ready to pounce, Eddie Howe’s team delivered a performance as good as any this season.
It is captain Kieran Trippier who uses that phrase about pressure and privilege in every team huddle before every game and this Newcastle side played like it against a dangerous Brighton fresh from their much lauded 3-0 destruction of Arsenal.
It was impressive in style and substance, but also because of the tension in the air. This was a triumph of will and character as much as skill and tenacity. They could have folded, they could have buckled, but stood strong like steel girders.
This was a high stakes, high intensity occasion among the high rollers of English football. That is the company Newcastle have kept all season and this was the moment they defied those who said they did not truly belong there.
The talking heads, some with their obvious club allegiances to Liverpool and Manchester United, others barely disguising them sat in television studios, had played their games. They talked about things catching up with the Magpies, of them falling short now that the pressure was on. Newcastle listened and grinned.
Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager had talked about how those ahead of his side in the race for the Champions League, Newcastle and Manchester United, would not enjoy having them breathing down their necks.
Howe’s response was a shrug and a mystified frown. He was not going to let outside interference do anything to change his message to his players. He remained unruffled and unflustered and so, crucially, did his players. The mind games, the attempts to get inside their heads before the game, did not work.
The Magpies were at their very best in the first half against Brighton, storming into a two goal lead which should have been turned into three just after half time when Miguel Almiron missed a golden opportunity.
Brighton came back, they pulled a goal back and the nerves began to jangle. That is when Newcastle were dogged, defiant. The crowd kept roaring them on, tired bodies were energised. They were magnificent, on the pitch and in the stands.
They defended for their lives and their Champions League futures right up until the moment Callum Wilson scored their third and Bruno Guimarares added a fourth in stoppage time. That stretched Newcastle’s lead over Liverpool in fifth place to four points with two games each left to play. The Magpies also have a superior goal difference of plus seven over Klopp’s men. The pressure now belongs on Merseyside ahead of their game against Aston Villa at the weekend, with Newcastle not playing again until Leicester arrive on Monday night.
The thing is, Newcastle are not really playing with the burden that people outside think they are. They did not expect to qualify for Europe this season, let alone the Champions League. And they are already guaranteed a Europa League spot.
The Magpies are so far ahead of schedule thanks to Howe’s brilliance as manager - and as a coach - that they can play with freedom. They can enjoy this experience, not be overwhelmed by it. That shone through against Brighton.
Brighton were pinned inside their own half for the first 45 minutes. Newcastle were relentless. This was Newcastle at their best; this is the Newcastle that deserves to be in the top four. They were physical and athletic, cute and smart too. Attacking down both flanks, but also looking to thread passes through the middle.
The variations confused Brighton and they were clinging on from the start Joe Willock stabbed a first time shot wide after Miguel Almiron had got in behind the defence. The Paraguay international should have scored moments later.
Newcastle were dominant but needed to make it count and the goal finally came when Trippier’s corner to the near post was headed into his own net by Deniz Undav.
Brighton were comprehensively outplayed and Newcastle got their deserved second in first-half stoppage time. A dummied free kick by the wily Trippier, tricking the Brighton defence to drop back, which played Dan Burn onside to head home.
It should have been game over early in the second half, but once again Alimron missed a simple chance in front of goal after Willock’s header had looped into his path.
On such moments can games swing and within seconds, Brighton had a goal back when Undav was played onside by Burn and slotted the ball underneath goalkeeper Nick Pope.
It could have been horribly wrong after that, but this Newcastle side were too tough, too streetwise and too good to let that happen. Over to you Manchester United and Liverpool, a challenge has been set.