TONY PULIS' 100th Premier League game in charge ended in disappointing fashion at Anfield on Wednesday night as his side went down 2-0 against a resurgent Liverpool.
Despite the first half ending goalless, second half strikes from Portugal international Raul Meireles and £23 million debutant Luis Suarez were enough to secure the hosts a third straight victory and inflict a second consecutive league defeat on the Potters.
Following a relatively uneventful transfer deadline day in which the Potters waved goodbye to Tuncay and Eidur Gudjohnsen, it was back to on the field matters on Wednesday evening for Pulis and his squad of players.
The City boss made no secret of the fact that changes were in store for the clash against Kenny Dalglish's side, and he backed up his words by making five alterations to his starting line up.
John Carew was deployed as a lone striker with a midfield quintet containing former Kop favourites Jermaine Pennant and Salif Diao along with Marc Wilson, Dean Whitehead and Republic of Ireland international Jonathan Walters.
Skipper Ryan Shawcross served the second of his two-match ban, meaning Abdoulaye Faye and Robert Huth continued their partnership in the middle after impressing in the 1-0 FA Cup win at Wolves just three days earlier.
They were accompanied at the back by Andy Wilkinson and Danny Higginbotham who had both earlier deemed themselves fit after originally appearing to be doubtful with minor knocks.
The parading of record signing Andy Carroll had already warmed up the vociferous home supporters prior to kick off, and they were almost back up on their feet within three minutes of the action getting underway.
An inswinging Steven Gerrard corner was glanced goalwards by Greek defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos, but thankfully Diao came to the rescue of the beaten Asmir Begovic with an acrobatic goal-line clearance.
At the other end, Stoke's first real surge into the hosts' penalty area brought with at an opportunity for Walters, however, after doing well to hold off Martin Kelly, his effort was blazed well over Pepe Reina's goal and high into the Kop.
On-loan Aston Villa star Carew was next to try his luck after rising highest to meet Pennant's deep centre, though his header lacked any real accuracy or conviction to trouble Reina, and he watched it harmlessly trickle wide of the post.
A superb double intervention by Higginbotham and Faye denied Gerrard a clear sight at goal after latching onto a clever Lucas through ball, whilst Begovic superbly punched clear inside the danger zone to deny in-form Raul Meireles an effort on goal.
Pulis plans of frustrating the resurgent hosts appeared to have been working as his side managed to thwart an inpatient looking Liverpool side, but one lapse in concentration very nearly cost his side dearly.
A dangerous Gerrard cross was powered towards goal by England international Glen Johnson, and just as he turned away to celebrate Begovic pulled off a remarkable one handed save to deny the full back before Faye swept the ball off the line and out of touch.
Moments later, Dirk Kuyt went agonisingly close as he flashed a header just wide after the Liverpool skipper Gerrard had again got the better of Higginbotham out on the right flank.
Begovic's agility was again evident minutes before the half-time interval as he reacted superbly to deny Dutch forward Kuyt after he had swept the ball towards the bottom right hand corner from the edge of the box.
There was nothing the impressive Bosnian ace was able to do just 90 seconds after the interval however, as Portugal star Meireles pounced from 10-yards out to drill the ball hard and low into the back of the net to lift the roof off of Anfield.
Pulis responded by firstly replacing the tiring Diao with Rory Delap before having his hand forced into replacing the injured Faye with Danny Collins shortly before the hour mark.
The introduction of Suarez off the bench lifted spirits even more around the historic stadium and he instantly showed his class with a series of neat flicks and superb movement. In fac,t it was he who teed up Meireles midway through the second only for him to fire wide of the target.
A spell of City pressure failed to bring with it a goal despite the best attempts of Carew and substitute Ricardo Fuller. Whilst chances were, in all honesty, few and far between for the Potters, they came at a premium for Dalglish's side as the game entered the final stages.
Before Jonjo Shelvey and Gerrard had forced Begovic into smart saves Suarez capped off a memorable debut with a slightly fortuitous goal after rounding the City 'keeper and seeing his effort diverted into his own net via the post by the luckless Wilkinson.
There was a chance for the visitors to grab a late consolation through Walters but his close range effort was instinctively saved by Reina, before Kyrgiakos cleared the ball away from danger.