Three minutes after being introduced into a fractious encounter that was scarred at the start when Hatem Ben Arfa suffered a suspected broken leg, Johnson provided a moment of magic to turn the contest his side's way.
Collecting James Milner's square pass, Johnson wriggled between Jose Enrique and Joey Barton before rifling a precise shot past Tim Krul.
It was harsh luck on the Magpies, who responded superbly to the loss of Ben Arfa and debatable penalty from Carlos Tevez and seemed good value for a point once Jonas Gutierrez had levelled.
But Johnson had other ideas as he kept City's multi-million pound bandwagon rolling, even if manager Roberto Mancini continues to insist the Premier League title is out of reach.
The combustible presence of Joey Barton at City for the first time since his acrimonious departure three years ago meant the touchpaper for this encounter would not require much burning.
Barton's crime sheet from his time with the Blues includes sticking a cigar into a young team-mate's eye during a Christmas party and a training ground challenge on Ousmane Dabo which led to some fairly gruesome pictures of the Frenchman coming to light.
Yet the foul which brought this contest to boiling point had nothing to do with the combative midfielder.
De Jong is a successor in more ways than one. Infinitely more talented that Barton but equally fiery in his approach.
That referee Martin Atkinson did not view De Jong's challenge on Ben Arfa to even warrant a foul was a surprise.
In winning the ball, De Jong was taking his opponent as well. Ben Arfa's left leg buckled and, as has happened too often already this season, oxygen was called for as the first stage to treating a break that will rule the young Frenchman out for an extended period.
That Newcastle should then fall behind to a debatable penalty only fuelled their sense of grievance.
Mike Williamson was adamant he took the ball as he slid in on Tevez.
He was coming from the back as well though and once Atkinson deemed it a penalty, the shock then was that when the red card seemed automatic, he produced a yellow instead.
Tevez exacted further punishment though, drilling the spot-kick into the middle of the Newcastle net.
The way things had gone, it seemed the visitors would collapse.
Instead, their response was admirable, made even more so as Chris Hughton had to call for the 36-year-old legs of Sol Campbell after Fabricio Coloccini had suffered a groin injury.
By then the Magpies were level thanks to Gutierrez's moment of inspiration.
Vincent Kompany must have thought he had done well when he made an acrobatic half-cleared on Gutierrez's cross.
Instead, he was merely teeing up the Argentina star, who failed to score during that disastrous first Premier League season at St James' Park, but did so brilliantly here, controlling the loose ball before rasping a shot beyond Joe Hart.
Although Newcastle could never claim to be dominating, it said much for their efforts that Roberto Mancini turned to Emmanuel Adebayor for some inspiration just 10 minutes after the restart.
Yaya Toure had set Tevez up for an angled effort which brought an excellent save from Krul but it was part of a minimal contribution from the Ivorian, who was the man sacrificed for Adebayor's greater attacking power.
The African's impact was disappointing though, certainly compared to that of Johnson, who was celebrating within three minutes of his introduction for Gareth Barry.
Mancini has delivered a number of warnings to the winger recently, which he insists are merely reminders of what it takes to reach the top but, as they have come with the addition slap of being left out, hint at something more concrete.
Newcastle were convinced they should have been presented with the opportunity to level from the spot when Joleon Lescott took down Shola Ameobi with a rather rash challenge.
Atkinson thought otherwise and when Mike Williamson headed Barton's corner over from close range, the Magpies' last chance of stealing a point disappeared with it.