Manager Alan Pardew says the form of midfielder Cheick Tiote has been a major factor in Newcastle's climb up the table.
The Magpies have won five of their last six to move up to seventh in the table ahead of Saturday's home game against Southampton.
And Tiote has been an influential figure in the victories, catching the eye in Saturday's 1-0 win at Manchester United, just as he had done in the 3-0 victory over the same side at St James' Park in January last year.
Tiote was made captain when Fabricio Coloccini was out injured and his good form has continued since the Argentinean's return.
"He is playing very well," said Pardew. "I was very reluctant to take the captaincy from him, after he did so well with it.
"But he has proved to me, irrespective of whether he wears the armband or not, he is brilliant.
"I can reflect on the two Manchester United games. The 3-0 was the best performance he ever gave this football club, closely followed by that performance (last week), so he can do it against the top clubs.
"When we drew 4-4 with Arsenal, that day he was unbelievable, so he has had some big, big games for us, don't forget about that."
Anita set to start again
Yohan Cabaye got the winner at Old Trafford but is suspended for Saturday's match meaning Vurnon Anita, who also started last week, will again have a big role to play.
"I don't think there's any questionable doubt that he will start," said Pardew.
"He has made himself stronger in the gym and he's had a little bit more time to reflect on some performances last year, where I think he struggled a little bit.
"This year, you have to pay tribute to him because he has been a lot, lot better and he is pushing for a place.
"I would expect him to get 20, 25 appearances this year and, for a second year at a big club, that's a good start."