Match ends, Newcastle United 3, Birmingham City 1.
Matt Ritchie's double helped Newcastle ease into the FA Cup fourth round with victory over fellow Championship side Birmingham at St James' Park.
The hosts went ahead on nine minutes after Yoan Gouffran was felled by Blues keeper Adam Legzdins as he ran on to Jonjo Shelvey's exquisite pass, with Ritchie converting the penalty.
Gouffran then scored an excellent second in a dominant first half for Newcastle, collecting Shelvey's free-kick and finishing low on the half-volley.
A previously lacklustre Birmingham suddenly started to create chances after David Cotterill's sliced strike on 71 minutes but the hosts ensured a fairer reflection of their control as Ritchie tapped in Shelvey's cross late on.
Rafael Benitez's side will travel to League One side Oxford United in round four on 28 January.
Defeat means Gianfranco Zola becomes the first Birmingham manager since 1889 to fail to win any of their first seven games in charge.
Newcastle boss Benitez made eight changes from the side that beat Brentford at the weekend and will be particularly pleased with the impressive return of Shelvey, following a five-game ban for using racially abusive language, during which Newcastle won just twice.
The 24-year-old conducted his side from a deep-lying midfield position, routinely punishing Birmingham for failing to press him.
He created the opener with a deftly-weighted through ball from the halfway line for Gouffran, who was fouled as he rounded Legzdins for a clear penalty that Ritchie sent down the middle.
Shelvey then picked out an unmarked Gouffran in the box with a free-kick, the French forward showing great control to turn the ball onto his right foot and strike under the goalkeeper.
Despite playing without a recognised striker, Newcastle never lacked creativity thanks to Shelvey, who fittingly made his second assist in added time, squaring from the left for Ritchie - who earlier hit the post with a fine curling effort - to steer into an empty net.
The hosts fielded three debutants in defender Stuart Findlay, midfielder Dan Barlaser and winger Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, but the presence of Premier League-quality players such as Gouffran, Ritchie and especially Shelvey meant they had a largely comfortable introduction to first-team football.
Zola's got the Blues
This result makes it four defeats and three draws in the seven games since Zola replaced sacked Gary Rowett on 14 December, and their first-half performance indicated that run was not going to end here.
While Rowett's side did not have a reputation as the most creative outfit, the visitors lacked any threat for long periods, save for shots from distance by Cotterill.
Aptly, it was the Wales winger who pulled his side back into the tie as he stole in unmarked to slice Lukas Jutkiewicz's knock down over Newcastle keeper Matz Sels, who otherwise made barely a save.
That sparked a flurry of interest from Zola's side as Che Adams and Jutkiewicz both headed over from promising deliveries into the box but ultimately Newcastle's third goal was well deserved.
Zola will hope a visit to Championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers on Saturday may prove a better chance to secure that first elusive win.
Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live: "We had control - after we conceded the goal there were some nervous players but we did well in the end.
"Jonjo Shelvey has not been playing so it was important for us to bring him back - he has quality and can make the difference.
"It's always good to win and go through - we can manage the number of games by using the squad and try to have as many players as we can ready."
Birmingham boss Gianfranco Zola, speaking to BBC Radio 5 live: "Our goal was a little bit too late and Newcastle are not a team that give anything away.
"We are going through a difficult spell so everything we do on the pitch has to be very hard work, while Newcastle can play three debutants and still be effective.
"It's strange as we've not had a big result to be smiling like me but I know it's not long before we're going to be enjoying more points. I'm still convinced of that."
- 22YedlinSubstituted forHaydenat 76'minutes
- 24TioteBooked at 69minsSubstituted forColbackat 83'minutes
- 36Ben El-MhanniSubstituted forPérezat 70'minutes
- 1LegzdinsBooked at 9mins
- 5ShottonBooked at 34mins
- 6KieftenbeldSubstituted forFabbriniat 80'minutes
- 26DavisSubstituted forBrownat 64'minutesBooked at 87mins
- 17Solomon-OtaborSubstituted forJutkiewiczat 64'minutes
- Lee Probert
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Newcastle United 3, Birmingham City 1.
Attempt blocked. Robert Tesche (Birmingham City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Reece Brown.
Goal! Newcastle United 3, Birmingham City 1. Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jonjo Shelvey.
Foul by Yoan Gouffran (Newcastle United).
Diego Fabbrini (Birmingham City) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Reece Brown (Birmingham City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Attempt missed. Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is high and wide to the left. Assisted by David Cotterill with a cross.
Foul by Daniel Barlaser (Newcastle United).
David Cotterill (Birmingham City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Daniel Barlaser.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Newcastle United. Jack Colback replaces Cheick Tioté.
Delay in match Che Adams (Birmingham City) because of an injury.
Cheick Tioté (Newcastle United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City).
Offside, Newcastle United. Jonjo Shelvey tries a through ball, but Yoan Gouffran is caught offside.
Substitution, Birmingham City. Diego Fabbrini replaces Maikel Kieftenbeld.
Attempt missed. Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City) header from the left side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jonathan Grounds with a cross.
Attempt missed. Jonjo Shelvey (Newcastle United) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ayoze Pérez.