JAMES BEATTIE'S first goals of the season were enough to inflict more problems on West Ham United in an entertaining affair at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The former England international opened the afternoon's scoring in the 11th minute with a clinically-taken penalty, before Hammers skipper Matthew Upson levelled matters just before half time.
City had the better of the second half though, and their efforts were rewarded in the 70th minute when Beattie brilliantly out-muscled Julien Faubert to slide home the winner after great work on the right from Jamaican international Ricardo Fuller.
The win sees the Potters move up the table to ninth, whilst West Ham remain second from bottom as their winless run extends to seven matches.
Ahead of the game, Tony Pulis named the same eleven which secured a superb point at Goodison Park two weeks ago; leaving the likes of Tuncay and Republic of Ireland duo Liam Lawrence and Glenn Whelan on the substitutes bench.
Pulis' decision to retain faith in the same eleven from the Everton clash paid immediate dividends as his side were rewarded for their constant bombardment of the Hammers backline when referee Martin Atkinson awarded the Potters a penalty after the impressive Etherington was tripped inside the 18-yard box.
The former West Ham star latched onto a delightful back heel from Ricardo Fuller, before Julien Faubert, who spent the tail end of last season on loan at Real Madrid, lunged in and brought him down.
Beattie was the man to step up and he clinically drove the ball into the roof of the net, leaving England number one Robert Green with absolutely no chance.
The visitors immediately set about levelling matters though and only a superb save from Denmark stopper Thomas Sorensen denied Carlton Cole minutes later. Alessandro Diamanti then tested the hands of the City number one with a stringing free-kick from 30-yards, after Diao was shown a yellow card for bringing down the Italian.
The hosts responded with some neat build-up play which could have led to a second goal. Etherington, who had switched to the right flank, linked up well with Robert Huth, and he played the ball across to Fuller who fired an effort wide from 25-yards.
City's backline went to sleep in the 34th minute and they were made to pay for it as England defender Upson got the better of both Abdoulaye Faye and Sorensen and headed the ball into an empty net after Mark Noble had fired across a dangerous corner.
The goal really sparked life into Gianfranco Zola's side, and had Robert Huth not been on hand to deny Carlton Cole in the 37th minute, then things could have gone horribly wrong for the Potters as the England striker would certainly have put the visitors ahead at the break.
The half-time interval brought about no changes as both managers decided to retain faith in their initial starting elevens. It was the visitors who continued to look the more lively though, and livewire Diamanti almost found a breakthrough in the 50th minute with a long range effort which forced Sorensen into a superb save to his right.
Etherington, who was a menace to his former employers throughout the proceedings, then played a delightful ball through to Beattie, but after cutting inside his man, he curled the ball wide of the right hand post from an acute angle.
City really turned up the heat on the hour mark as a series of balls into the United penalty area continued to put the visitors up against the wall.
In fact, Etherington's corner in the 62nd minute could have resulted in Shawcross heading home from six-yards, but he was denied by both Green and Upson on the line, before they managed to scramble the ball away from danger.
Cole provided a reminder to City's defence that their work for the afternoon wasn't complete in the 68th as he forced man-of-the-match Shawcross into the challenge of the day as he denied what would have certainly been a goal for the rejuvenated England striker.
Jamaican international Fuller produced an individual piece of brilliance two minutes later as he received an intelligent pass from Salif Diao, turned the defender and powered his way into the penalty area before firing an effort goalwards which Green could only palm into the direction of Beattie, and he made no mistake in skidding the ball into an empty net, despite the best attempts of Faubert.
Etherington almost made it three as he headed wide after substitute Lawrence had brilliantly picked him out, whilst Irish compatriot Whelan, who had moments earlier replaced Diao, fired an effort agonisingly wide from 25-yards.
An additional five minutes of injury time were added on by the fourth official, but rather than hanging on, City, in particularly Fuller pushed forward in a bid to seal the victory.
However, despite twice leaving the West Ham backline for dead, no-one was on hand to tap home from close range after he played the ball across the 6-yard box.