STEVE BRUCE has escaped the Toon axe for now – despite club legends turning on the team.

Calls for Bruce’s sacking reached fever pitch after Newcastle’s 3-0 loss at relegation rivals Brighton on Saturday.

Club legend Alan Shearer blasted the display as 'abysmal'.

Yet owner Mike Ashley is convinced keeping Bruce is still their best hope of staying up.

Newcastle have won just twice in 20 games and sit 17th – two points clear of Fulham and the bottom three.

Shearer laid into the players after Saturday’s horror show.

Fans’ group Toon For Change said: “We implore the club to remove Bruce and appoint an ambitious manager who has the capability of keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League.

“There is still hope for the club this season but we’re running out of time.”

Banners calling the manager a 'coward' and demanding his sacking were hung up outside St James’ Park.

Geordie Bruce admitted he could do nothing if the call from Ashley came after Saturday.

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But it is understood the Sports Direct billionaire is in no mood to make a change.

Ashley is currently in Dubai, but believes Bruce’s fighting talk under intense pressure is one of the reasons why he is still the right man for the job.

Yet supporters are increasingly turning on Bruce with every game that passes.

And the way the team rolled over against Brighton, in their biggest game of the season so far, saw a number of former players put the boot in.

Ex-defender Didier Domi said: “The owner should ask three questions.

"Is the manager improving the team individually and collectively? Is he motivating them? Is he playing the right system?

“If the answer is yes, he continues. But it’s a no for me – I would change it now.”

Former midfielder Gavin Peacock tweeted: “Very poor from Newcastle. Needs new leadership from the top down.”

Steve Howey, still a big presence on Tyneside, tweeted: “I have no words to describe how bad this is.”

And Warren Barton wrote on Twitter: “Sad, sad day.”

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