The league leaders were gifted a fifth-minute opener as Newcastle defender Ciaran Clark failed to attack Joao Cancelo’s hooked cross and Ruben Dias had a simple task to head City ahead.
City doubled their lead in the 27th minute when Cancelo collected the ball 35 yards out, beat two Newcastle players and fired an unstoppable strike into the top corner from outside the penalty area.
However, Guardiola was angry with his side’s opening half at St James’ Park.
“The first half was one of the poorest we’ve played this season,” said the Spaniard.
“We were not there. We didn’t play in any rhythm and everyone had too many touches, losing balls.
“We were lucky, but Newcastle did not defend well for the first goal and it was a brilliant action from Joao Cancelo for the second goal.”
Guardiola described his side’s second-half performance as “much better” and “closer to who we are” as Riyad Mahrez scored his 50th Premier League goal for the club in the 63rd minute, superbly volleying in Oleksandr Zinchenko’s cross for City’s third.
It got even worse for the hosts as Raheem Sterling tapped in from close range four minutes from time after a fine run down the left flank from Gabriel Jesus.
This victory ensures City will be top of the Premier League at Christmas for only the third time – and on both previous occasions in 2011-12 and 2017-18 they went on to be champions.
Newcastle remain 19th in the table, three points behind 17th-placed Watford and with only goal difference keeping them above bottom club Norwich City.
City turn on the style
Guardiola had to cancel a pre-match news conference on Friday after he returned an inconclusive lateral flow coronavirus test, but a later negative PCR test allowed him to manage City from the touchline on Sunday.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe had lost all his 10 previous games against City and would have been horrified with his side’s start as miscommunication between goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and Clark saw the centre-back leave Cancelo’s cross to present Dias with an easy goal.
Joelinton had a chance to equalise but shot just wide from 20 yards, before Cancelo put City two ahead. Although it was a great strike from the Portugal international, Howe will have been unhappy with the ease he evaded two defenders and managed to get his shot off with a further three Newcastle players surrounding him.
The home fans thought they should have had a penalty when City goalkeeper Ederson slid into, and wiped out, Ryan Fraser but nothing, surprisingly, was given. Former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, called it a “disgusting decision” to not award a spot-kick.
Isaac Hayden almost pulled a goal back before the interval, but glanced a header wide with Jacob Murphy also shooting wastefully over.
At half-time, Howe brought on Allan Saint-Maximin, who had suffered a calf problem against Liverpool on Thursday, for Joe Willock in an attempt to get back into the game.
City nearly grabbed their third, but Dubravka made fine saves to tip over Jesus’ close-range header and parry Sterling’s curling effort.
But it was only a brief respite as Mahrez’s goal, originally ruled out for offside before being overturned by the video assistant referee (VAR), stretched the visitors’ lead further.
Newcastle almost grabbed a late consolation, but Ederson tipped over Callum Wilson’s powerful header and Sterling claimed his 101st Premier League goal to ensure another frustrating day for the hosts.
City secured their 34th league victory of 2021, establishing a new record for the most top-flight wins by a team in a calendar year.
“Records show the consistency we have as a team, it is not winning titles or finals, but it is winning and winning,” added Guardiola. “Records are there to be broken and we are happy to have them.
“I prefer to win titles, but when you break a record from a long time ago, in a calendar year, the most victories, you are consistent. You win games and this is the most precious value this team has.”
City last failed to win in the league on 30 October, losing 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace, and since then have recorded victories over Manchester United, Everton, West Ham, Aston Villa, Watford, Wolves, Leeds and now Newcastle, scoring an impressive 24 goals in the process and conceding three.
Guardiola’s side are hoping to replicate their efforts of last season when they won 15 league games in a row on their way to picking up the title – City’s fifth in 10 campaigns