Newcastle edged out Newport 29-24 in their EDF Energy Cup tie at Kingston Park on Saturday, despite the absence of big names Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon and skipper Phil Dowson.
With World Cup duo Toby Flood and Mathew Tait pulling the strings, the Falcons surged into a 17-0 lead but Newport fought back and could have snatched a win in the dying seconds.
Newport did not help their cause when Joe Bearman and Andrew Hall were shown yellow cards within the space of five minutes midway through the first half, both times for preventing release
Aled Thomas's ninth-minute penalty from 40 metres fell short in an opening spell notable for some scrappy handling and referee James Jones' frequent whistle before John Rudd's surging run and chip ahead had Newport scrambling back as Rudd was shunted into touch after the kick.
Flood and Ollie Phillips backed up a Lee Dickson break but the move broke down when big lock Andy Perry was forced into touch on the Newport 22 but the pressure was building and Flood kicked a 17th-minute penalty
And it was Flood who fastened on to Joe McDonell's offload and a delightful backhand pass set up Steve Jones for a 19th-minute try which Flood also converted.
And, when Joe Bearman was sin-binned for preventing release, Newcastle immediately scored with a rolling maul from the penalty and Flood again converted from wide out.
Newport were in disarray and under severe pressure when Hall joined Bearman in the sin bin after a thumping run by Falcons prop David Wilson.
But then with Newcastle pressing hard, Martyn Thomas intercepted Flood's long pass and raced 70 metres for a try under the posts to give Newport a lifeline.
The lifeline was stretched as early as the third minute of the second half with Flood rifling a crossfield kick for Ollie Phillips to break through Thomas's despairing tackle and score.
Newport should have scored when Rhodri Gomer-Davies broke clear down the left but he lost the ball just short of the line when May hit him with a big tackle.
The Dragons did score when Rhys Thomas drove over from close range to make it 22-12 in the 51st minute.
Tait became the third player in the sin bin for preventing release in the 54th minute with Newcastle under real pressure from a rejuvenated Newport side.
And it came as no surprise when Andy Williams darted through after Newcastle made a mess of their own line-out.
It brought Newport back to within three points at 22-19 but after Newcastle blew another chance at a line-out and with 10 minutes left on the clock, Rudd surged from deep to collect Steve Jones' pop pass for a great bonus point try.
Back came Newport with the Falcons defence in shreds and Thomas crashed over for his second try within a minute of Rudd's try.
That was a bonus score for Newport and also earned them a second bonus point for being less than seven points down
Crucially, Aled Thomas missed the conversion and from that point Newcastle were happy to run the clock down but they were forced to defend desperately in the closing seconds with Newport on the attack.
Tries: Wilson, Jones, Phillips, Rudd
Cons: Flood 2, Jones
For the Dragons
Tries: Martin Thomas, Rhys Thomas 2, Williams
Cons: Aled Thomas 2
Yellow cards: Bearman (25, Dragons), Hall (29, Dragons)
Newcastle: 15 Tom May, 14 Ollie Phillips, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Steve Jones, 11 John Rudd, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Russell Winter, 7 Brent Wilson, 6 Geoff Parling, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Andy Perry, 3 David Wilson, 2 Matt Thompson, 1 Joe McDonnell (c).
Replacements: 16 Andy Long, 17 Jon Golding, 18 Jason Oakes, 19 Ed Williamson, 20 Hall Charlton, 21 Tim Visser, 22 Alex Tait.
Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Paul Emerick, 13 Rhodri Gomer-Davies, 12 Gareth Maule, 11 Richard Mustoe, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Andrew Williams, 8 Michael Owen, 7 Colin Charvis (c), 6 Joe Bearman, 5 Peter Sidoli, 4 Andrew Hall, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Ben Daly, 1 Hugh Gustafson,
Replacements: 16 Kieran Crawford, 17 Adam Black, 18 Jamie Corsi, 19 Lewis Evans, 20 Richard Parks, 21 Ceri Sweeney, 22 Wayne Evans
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Touch judges: Neil Ballard (Wales), Neil Howells (Wales)
Assessor: Brian Leigh (England)
Television match official: Trevor Parlett (England), Graham Hughes (England)