Over the past few weeks, it appeared Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew was a dead-man walking. A large section of the club’s supporters, – who were fed up with a year’s worth of dismal performances – had focused their attention on the Magpies’ fourth-year manager. Protests were organized and signs handed out demanding that Pardew be removed from his position at the club.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley added fuel to the speculation of his manager’s apparently imminent dismissal when he was quoted as saying if Pardew didn’t beat Stoke City [last Monday], he was ‘finished’ at the Tyneside club. Ashley would quickly attempt to clarify his comments by saying they were ‘tongue-and-cheek’.

Over the past few weeks, despite the chaos engulfing the Toon, Pardew has been able to guide Newcastle to two positive results against Premier League opposition – although the Magpies have yet to earn a league win to date.

The club which has been lifeless and boardline inept for the majority of 2014, has begun to show signs of life. Newcastle’s recent performance won’t see the club making a top four push – similar to the one it made three seasons ago – but there has been a slight transformation.

The side that displayed a listless effort and slapstick-style defending against Southampton just a few weeks ago, has all of a sudden shown stretches of passion and cohesion during its last three league fixtures.

Yes, the Magpies have only earned two points out of a possible nine over the past three matches against Hull City, Stoke and Swansea. But the players – who were lifeless two weeks ago – are now fighting for the shirt again. The effort has returned to the Newcastle lineup and they are showing signs of being able to claw their way out from the bottom three of the Premier League.

So what has been the catalyst to the recent improvements? How has Alan Pardew – who appeared to be having his head laid under the guillotine – saved his neck from the angled blade?

The answer has been the return of striker Papiss Cisse.

Cisse has come back to the Newcastle side and breathed life into the club. The Senegalese international recently returned to Magpies’ lineup after recovering from a fractured patella.

With Cisse injured, Newcastle were lacking in attacking options. Pardew attempted to address the need over the summer by bringing in Emmanuel Riviere from AS Monaco. But the French striker’s performances haven’t produce goals or victories during the opening weeks of the Premier League campaign.

Until today, Cisse had only been able to come off the bench for the club as he worked his way back to 100% match fitness. But today, his first start of the season against fourth place Swansea City saw the striker score his second brace – in only his third match – and earn Newcastle a 2-2 draw in Wales.

It hasn’t just been Cisse’s goals – though they have been extremely timely. What has really energized Newcastle has been the attitude of the 29-year-old goalscorer.

In previous seasons, fans have become accustomed to seeing Cisse perform with a smile on his face during matches. But that smile has been replaced by fierce determination and a scowl.

It appears as though Cisse is taking the public criticism of Pardew as a personal attack against himself. The striker has been energized in-and-around the box, while seemingly dragging his team to results as if it were HIS job that was on the line.

Since his return, Cisse has been more vocal and animated than he has been in previous seasons. Fabricio Coloccini is still Newcastle’s captain…but right now Papiss Cisse is leading the club.

Fortunately for Pardew – and the club – Cisse has hit the ground running since his return and the striker has been carrying the scoring load for the Magpies.

With this said, the manager could still very well be blindfolded, given a few puffs on a cigarette and placed in front of the firing squad in the coming weeks. But for now, the arrival of Papiss Cisse has granted Alan Pardew a stay of execution.