In United's first season in the Football League in 1893/94 their average crowd was just over the four thousand mark. By the last season of the century (six seasons later) the average had quadrupled and a highest attendance of 30,000 had been recorded.
Unfortunately the capacity of the ground and facilities on offer could not keep pace with the rising interest resulting in some dangerous viewing conditions
Below are the matches which upped the ante; quotes are from The Evening Chronicle Sports Edition.
Attendance figures for the Victorian era are notoriously unreliable but it is believed that United's first five figure gate was recorded for the FA Cup Tie against First Division Bolton.
The average gate for that year - their first in the Football League - was only just above 4,000, but this match promised better to come. They had won all of their last seven games at SJP and hopes were high that they could cause an upset.
Bolton tried to get the game re-arranged first by inducement and then by complaint because they feared a low attendance and therefore poor expenses; they were to be pleasantly surprised by the turnout if not the pitch.
To their credit the directorate resisted the temptation to raise th ticket prices and they were rewarded with a bumper crowd. As a precaution the club had requisitioned a detatchment of police and infantrymen from the barracks to maintain order, but the crowd was very orderly and they had little to do.
The Newcastle Daily Chronicle reported that "enthusiasm was of a most hearty description" and suggested that the "public are beginning to appreciate the efforts of the home directorate in their endeavour to promote the past time in the locality"
In difficult gale-force conditions United were unlucky to lose. With the wind at their backs The Wanderers led 2-0 at half-time. In the second-half The Magpies bombarded the Trotters, but although Crate pulled one back, United were out.
Almost exactly two years later and more Lancastrian opposition from the upper echelons attracted an "immense concourse of spectators" to SJP. By now the average gate had risen to just above 7,000, but their were twice as many as usual . Once again United's home record of fourteen wins in fifteen games meant that the game was by no means a formality.
"The entrance to the ground was opened some two hours before the start, and the public immediately began to assemble in great numbers. The best positions were soon all monopolised, while afterwards, later comers were only too glad to seize upon any place of 'vantage from which a view of the arena could be viewed".
"The stands were first filled to their utmost capacity, and then the cinder banks. Fully half an hour before the players entered the field, the whole of the available space had been occupied, after which the most venturesome mounted the railings round the ground".
When United centre-forward Thompson "dashed the leather" past Bury custodian Montgomery in the first minute it "sent their supporters into a perfect frenzy of delight".
However as the weather became increasingly murky The Shakers recorded three second half goals to take them through.
United had started the new season well; a 100% record at home and a run of seven wins in eight games had taken them up to fourth. Notts County were top (and would go up as Champions). "Never before had any fixture of the Northern team created so much interest".
"We cannot remember an occasion on which such incessant crowds trooped into the ground from the moment the gates were opened 'til the match started and long after, or on which the space between the barriers and the palisading presented a more unbroken range of expectant faces."
It was an exciting and evenly contested match, but it needed a goal from Aitken just before the end to snatch a point for The Magpies. "The scene of wild and frantic enthusiasm which ensued beggars description. Hats, sticks and umbrellas were waved in the air, and it seemed as if the din would never cease"
The following season saw United promoted as the average attendance topped 10,000 for the first time. The best crowd turned up for the Christmas clash with League leaders Burnley. United were in 3rd at the time, but had won all their previous home fixtures.
Despite the fact that there were many other "holiday attractions" in the district, thousands - certainly encouraged by the "remarkably mild" weather - converged on "St. Jim's".
"It was remarked that the crowd would effectively test the capabilities of the new stand at the Gallowgate End". Thankfully it stood up to the weight. "So large was the crowd, that even the press box roof was occupied."
The first half was evenly contested, Wardrope coming closest when he hit the upright. "So great was the pressure on and in front of the stand that the dividing rail gave way and the crowd dropped through. Play was suspended till the spectators had been got well out of the way.".
United were reduced to ten men when Jackson had to retire meanwhile on the West side of the field "the rails again gave way, and a man seemed to have suffered somewhat severely, as his condition necessitated immediate attention from the policemen present".
A prolonged half-time interval "allowed the high-pitched excitement of the spectators time to cool down", but as the second period continued in the same "ding-dong" manner as the first the barrier at the north-east corner gave way and once again the game was stopped so that the spectators could be forced back.
As full-time approached "the feverish excitement of the spectators became intensified" as both sides strived for the winner which The Turfites duly got minutes from the end.
Newcastle were struggling in their first season in the top flight and were one off the bottom when The Valiants paid them a visit. But a respectable draw against League champions Sheffield United at Brammal Lane had rekindled hope.
With Sunderland in The Peaks and the weather "eminently suitable"; a large crowd had been anticipated and "extraordinairy preparations were made by the Executive" as people flocked to the Toon "by aid of excursions run from various parts of the North".
By 2.20pm "there was a line of people stretching from the Barrack Road to the railings of the enclosure, the huge stand at the foot of the field being quickly packed. From Strawberry Lane another steady stream flowed through the gates, and the components thereof made their way to the most suitable points for sight-seeing, the Leazes Park End being first chosen".
"Then the stand on the West side received its complement leaving standing room on the banked earth at the east side only. By reason of lost footholds there were one or two slides down the face of the end stand, which might easily be obviated by the placing of bars at intervals, parallel with the length of the erection".
The match got under way and some of the "bewildering throng" took vantage on the flat zinc roofs of the stands "constituting a danger to those underneath". Others took refuge in the press-box much to the annoyance of the journos "actually there on business".
United scored first through Rogers and "as might be expected, a tremendous cheer from thousands of voices rent the air", but Villa came back strongly and despite an excellent performance by the Novacastrians defence they equalised in the second period.
The attendance was actually 7,000 above the official capacity at the time.
During the summer of 1898 United finally made to significant improvements to the ground and it could 30,000 could now be "accommodated without trouble"; It was not long before the new capacity was put to the test. Three wins out of three at home had taken to the heady heights of fourth and now they faced League leaders Sheffield United".
"'What a gate! What a crowd!' were the remarks continually heard as the late comers got on to the field and surveyed the animated scene Talk about sea of faces! There seemed oceans of them on each of the four sides. A tremendous framework of excited humanity."
When the game started "the people broke out in a veritable roar - ear splitting and almost fierce in its character". After an edgy start the game became "brimful of dash, both sides striving might and main" and the "men and women at each side actually swayed like waves of the sea at times".
The first-half ended goalless as a result of the brilliance of both sets of defenders although The Steelmen overstepped the mark sometimes "amidst very strong signs of disapproval from the crowd".
In the second-half the backs continued to thwart all and the crowd showed increasing signs of frustration . And as "more rough play was evidenced.. the crowd was not now in the sweetest of tempers, and gave repeated ridiculations of its ruffled feelings by continued booing."
Despite the "Trojan" efforts of both sides the match ended - fairly - in a draw.