STOKE CITY capped off their Easter programme by picking up a thoroughly deserved point against Aston Villa on Bank Holiday Monday . . . thanks to Robert Huth's second goal in as many games.
The German international, who scored the first as the Potters came from behind to beat Wolves 48 hours earlier, grabbed his side a deserved leveller in the second half after Andreas Weimann had spectaculalrly fired the hosts into the lead.
Tony Pulis may feel slightly aggrieved that his side weren't able to record a 12th win of the campaign, having shaded the encounter, but it will be the City boss who will go home the happier of the two managers.
The results ensures Villa, for whom this was their fifth draw in eight games, remain away from any impending relegation worries, whilst the point cements the Potters comfortably in mid-table, moving them on to 42 points along with both Fulham and Sunderland.
Pulis made three changes to the side which gained the victory that carried City beyond the all-important 40-point mark with Wilson Palacios, Rory Delap and Kenwyne Jones all being given starting places at the expense of Glenn Whelan, Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch.
There were a number of notable absentees from the Villa line-up including, of course, their skipper Stiliyan Petrov, as well as Darren Bent and Richard Dunne, but their young and inexperienced side made the brighter start which forced the Potters onto the backfoot.
Jones was soon in the action, however, as he nodded down a ball to the edge of the box from Marc Wilson and although Jonathan Walters was able to bring it under control, he couldn't produce a telling shot and the home side's defence closed him down.
City were awarded a free kick for a foul on Ryan Shotton wide on the right and although that came to nothing, it heralded a period of pressure in which Delap was given the opportunity to launch a couple of his long throws into the Villa box.
Asmir Begovic was called into action for the first time in the 18th minute when Villa were awarded a corner as Huth failed in his attempt to shield the ball out.
Barry Bannan's deep kick to the far post was firmly met by Collins, but although Gabriel Agbonlahor got the faintest of touches, Begovic was covering well.
A minute's applause for Petrov raised the volume in the crowd, but it could not inspire the Villa players as City continued to look comfortable.
As the Potters pushed forward with Walters drifting out to the left hand side, his cross to the far post found Delap nipping in front of his marker to head straight at Shay Given, but there was a rare moment when either goalkeeper was tested.
But out of the blue, Villa went in front in the 31st minute when an individual piece of brilliance from Weimann broke the deadlock for the home side.
The young striker worked space for himself on the edge of the box by playing a one-two with Bannan and then curled his shot beyond the reach of Begovic, the giant Bosnian having little chance as the ball nestled in the far corner of the net.
City had two good opportunities to draw level from set-pieces, as first a long throw from Delap caused problems for the Villa defence and it broke to Palacios on the edge of the box whose goalbound effort was deflected wide by Warnock.
From the resulting corner swung in by Etherington, Huth rose to meet it with a firm header but got his angles all wrong and it flew harmlessly wide.
There was more encouragement for the Potters just before the break when Given flapped at a long throw launched into the box by Delap and when Etherington whipped the ball back into the box, Walters sent a glancing header onto the roof of the net.
City exerted plenty of pressure at the start of the second half and much of it came once again from the trademark throw-ins sent over by Delap.
The best opportunity fell to Huth once again when Etherington sent over a corner from the right, but once again his header was well off target.
Villa responded by immediately carving out a clear-cut opening themselves as Agbonlahor burst clear onto an instinctive through ball from Herd, but the England striker slid his shot past the advancing Begovic but beyond the far post.
It was no surprise that Crouch and Pennant, who had been warming up for some time, were introduced in place of Jones and Etherington just after the hour mark.
The move paid off within minutes as the Potters got themselves back on level terms with Huth netting his second goal of the Easter programme.
Pennant was the provider as he had been for the winner on Saturday with a perfect delivery which found Huth rising to power his header past Given.
Villa had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Dean when Collins felt he had been impeded as he rose at the far post to try and meet a Gardner cross.
With 10 minutes remaining, Pulis made his third change of the evening when Ricardo Fuller was sent on in place of Delap, the Jamaican returning to the ground where he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon almost twelve months ago.
The game opened up as both teams tired and Crouch was frustrated not to get his shot past Collins' close attention after he had chested down a deep cross from Pennant who was causing Villa plenty of problems down the right hand side.
There was a nasty of clash of heads between Huth and Herd when the pair challenged for a throw-in launched into the box by Shotton, the Villa defender coming off the worst as he eventually had to be taken off on a stretcher after treatment.
Replays showed that the impact of his head crashing against the ground may have concussed him rather than the clash of heads with Huth.
There was one final dramatic moment as the game drew to its conclusion when Shawcross bundled home a Pennant corner, however, the linesman signalled that the winger's centre had crossed the line before the Potters skipper connected with the ball.