RICARDO FULLER'S first Premier League goal of the campaign was enough to secure all three points in Sunday's live televised encounter against Portsmouth at the Britannia Stadium.
The Jamaican international exquisitely fired home in the second half to compound more misery on bottom-placed Portsmouth, who squandered a chance to take an early lead from the penalty spot. The win moves the Potters back in to ninth place, just three points shy of Aston Villa who currently sit in fifth position.
Ahead of the game, Tony Pulis was forced into two changes with skipper Abdoulaye Faye serving a one-match ban following his dismissal against Hull two weeks ago, whilst Glenn Whelan had to settle for a place on the bench after picking up a slight groin strain during the Republic of Ireland's controversial encounter against France on Wednesday.
Their places in the starting line-up went to Andy Wilkinson, who slotted in at right back with Robert Huth moving into the middle, whilst Salif Diao passed a late fitness test to come straight in to the heart of midfield alongside Dean Whitehead.
The visitors were dealt a blow during the pre-match warm up when England stopper David James picked up an injury meaning his place between the sticks went to Jamie Ashdown, with Antti Niemi stepping on to the bench at the last minute.
After Pompey won the toss and elected to switch ends, the Potters eventually kicked the game off amidst extremely blustery weather conditions, but barely seven minutes had elapsed by the time referee Kevin Friend awarded the visitors a perfect opportunity to get the game off to a dream start.
A long punt forward into the City penalty area was neatly controlled by Ivorian striker Aruna Dindane, and Rory Delap needlessly floored the striker with a clumsy challenge. German midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng stepped up and fired a tame effort towards the bottom left hand corner, which Thomas Sorensen comfortably saved much to the delight of the 26,000 City supporters.
That breathed fresh life into the Potters who surged forward immediately with Matthew Etherington looking lively, but Paul Hart's men soon got a foothold on the game as both Jamie O'Hara and Dindane warmed the hands of City's Danish number one Sorensen.
A couple of trademark Delap throw-ins caused brief moments of panic amongst the Portsmouth backline, whilst an Etherington run down the left failed to bring a clear sight at goal.
Former Arsenal man Kanu then flashed an effort wide for the visitors before Hayden Mullins screwed an effort just wide of the post after good work down the right from Boateng just before the interval.
Whilst Pulis refused to change things around during the break, just ten minutes into the second period he introduced both Liam Lawrence and Mamady Sidibe much to the delight of the Potters faithful, and it immediately sparked a flowing move down the right flank which earned the hosts a corner.
Etherington fired across a dangerous centre which Ben Haim brilliantly cleared away from the fast-approaching skipper for the day Ryan Shawcross. Dindane again continued to cause City's backline problems and his clever run in behind Huth very nearly resulted in the opening goal of the afternoon, but he was unable to find the target with just Sorensen to beat.
Pulis was just about ready to thrust Tuncay on with 20 minutes remaining, but just when he was ready to make his way on to the field, the Potters carved out their first real opportunity with undoubtedly the best piece of football of the afternoon, and it ended with Fuller breaking the deadlock.
A clever one-two between Etherington and Whitehead ended with Fuller receiving the ball 18-yards out, and after turning he curled an effort beyond Ashdown and into the bottom left hand corner to send the majority of the Britannia Stadium into delirium.
Pompey were rocked by the goal and things could have got even worse a minute later when Lawrence found Sidibe with a clever through-ball, but the Malian lashed at it and fired horribly wide.
Tuncay finally made his way on to the field as Pulis replaced the tired looking Fuller late on and his hard work and endeavour allowed Wilkinson the time and space to dance down the right flank and fire an effort agonisingly over the bar right at the death.