Goals from Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa ensured Newcastle got off to a winning start in the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur.
New Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas will be left a little confused as to how his team lost after his tactics of a three-man central midfield allowed Spurs to dominate for the majority of the encounter.
But Newcastle boss Alan Pardew, who was sent to the stands in the second half for pushing a linesman, got the winning start he wanted to build on last season's fifth-placed finish.
Tottenham had looked sharper in the first period and were desperately unlucky not to take some kind of lead into the half-time break after both Defoe and Gareth Bale clattered shots against the woodwork.
Defoe was sent through by a neat ball from Jake Livermore in the 33rd minute but fired against the base of Tim Krul's right-hand post, and three minutes later Bale headed powerfully against the bar from an Aaron Lennon cross.
The Icelander was a little unfortunate to be flagged offside in the eighth minute as Spurs started well, the striker getting on the end of Livermore's first ball into the box where he was thwarted by a brave challenge from Krul.
Steven Taylor swirled Newcastle's first chance high and wide from a left-wing set-piece, then the Magpies almost took a freak lead in the 22nd minute when Ba hit a weak, bobbling shot that took a touch off Papiss Cisse and almost deceived Brad Friedel.
Krul tipped a Sigurdsson free-kick round the post and Taylor had to be alert to head away the same player's resulting corner before Tottenham's best period saw them twice come agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock.
In the last action of the first half, the largely anonymous Cisse headed over but Spurs were again on top early in the second, Magpies defender James Perch making a superb interception to stop Defoe latching onto Lennon's cross in front of goal.
Spurs seemed a little clueless in response, Benoit Assou-Ekotto drilling a long-range effort which was parried by Krul, but the swing in momentum did not placate Pardew, who was sent to the stands on the hour for over-protesting a touchline incident.
Newcastle made their first change in the 70th minute, new boy Anita replacing Yohan Cabaye, but Spurs were almost level within a minute, Defoe bursting through the static rearguard and hitting a low shot which was well parried by Krul.
Spurs grabbed their deserved equaliser in the 76th minute when Lennon crossed into a crowded box and Defoe wriggled free to fire past Krul at the second attempt after his initial header had been parried by the goalkeeper.
But the point only lasted four minutes before Van der Vaart was rightly penalised for tripping Ben Arfa in the left side of the box, and the Frenchman picked himself up to send Friedel the wrong way from the spot.
Goal of the match: Demba Ba's opening strike was a beautifully-placed, curling effort which gave Brad Friedel no chance.
Moment of the match: Just four minutes after getting back into the game, Tottenham shot themselves in the foot by Aaron Lennon's foul for a penalty on Hatem Ben Arfa.
Controversy of the match: Newcastle boss Alan Pardew was sent to the stands in the second half for pushing a referee's assistant.
Talking point: Andre Villas-Boas' tactics worked. Tottenham were simply undone by poor defending to give away both goals.
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