Bruce’s side is 17th in the Premier League – and nine points above the relegation zone – ahead of this afternoon’s home game against Arsenal following a run of two wins and two draws last month.
There had been hopes of a push for a top-10 place this season following the £20million acquisition of Callum Wilson, set to start against Mikel Arteta’s side, last summer, and the arrival of free agent Ryan Fraser.
However, the team struggled from late last year.
And Bruce has blamed the dismal mid-season run which led to renewed calls for his dismissal on injuries to key players and a Covid-19 outbreak at the training ground.
Bruce has now challenged his team, on 36 points with five games left to play, to match last season’s 44-point haul, which saw Newcastle finish 13th in the Premier League.
Asked what hitting his target would mean, Bruce replied: “Look, it’s not a success, but with the problems we’ve had … we’ve been in the bottom half of the division now for a number of years, that’s where we are at this particular moment.
"If we can match last year, where we got to, then I think we would all accept that would be, considering the problems we’ve had, acceptable.
“Can we finish above where we did last year?
"I doubt it, but considering the problems we’ve had this year, then I’d be delighted if we could get there.”
Owner Mike Ashley backed Bruce after a shocking 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on March 20 amid calls for him to go.
Bruce said: “Certainly when you throw in the horror show at Brighton, then you have to have a response and all of them have responded in a positive way to say ‘look, we weren’t good enough on the night – and we’ve got to be better than that if we’re going to stay in this division’.”
A win over Arsenal would all but secure the club’s Premier League status following Fulham’s defeat to Chelsea yesterday.