STOKE CITY consolidated their position at the top of Group E in the Europa League as they swept aside Maccabi Tel Aviv in a bad-tempered encounter that saw both sides have a player sent off at the Britannia Stadium.
The rampant Potters struck three goals in the first 32 minutes to settle the issue and continue their excellent start to the season, but their hopes of recording a more emphatic triumph were hampered by a red card shown to Cameron Jerome.
The £4 million signing from Birmingham City had enjoyed a lively start to the game, scoring one of the goals and being involved in the build-up to the other two, but he was controversially sent off just before the break for a second booking.
Jerome was adjudged to have caught defender David Ziv with his outstretched arm and the Greek referee gave him his matching orders.
In another bizarre incident shortly after half time, Ziv was also sent off when he kicked out in frustration and sent his boot flying into the assistant referee.
Prior to all that, Kenwyne Jones had marked his comeback by heading City in front in the twelfth minute and after Jerome had added the second midway through the half, Ryan Shotton slid home his third goal of the season in the 32nd minute.
More goals seemed on the cards, but the sending off took some of the wind out of City's sails and they settled for a 3-0 victory in the end.
The night would have been even better for them had not Dynamo Kiev snatched a last-minute winner against Besiktas to keep the Group wide open, meaning that much will now hinge on their meeting with City at the Britannia Stadium.
As expected, Pulis handed Jones the chance to make his comeback from a hamstring injury as one of seven changes to the side that had beaten Fulham at the weekend.
The £8 million striker partnered Jerome up front, while there was a place on the right wing for Shotton in the absence of the injured, while Whitehead, Diao, and Huth came into the starting line-up and as before Sorensen replaced Begovic in goal.
Maccabi enjoyed plenty of possession in the early stages, showing some nice touches without really causing much of a threat to the Potters.
It took a good ten minutes indeed for City to pose a real threat as Shotton burst down the right before sending over a deep cross which found Etherington at the far post. Although he turned it back over, Maccabi were able to clear the danger.
Out of very little, the Potters mounted their first period of sustained pressure on the Maccabi goal and went in front in the twelfth minute.
A long throw-in from Shotton carried through to Jerome at the far post who hit the underside of the bar with a close range header and then forced a brilliant reflex save out of Haimov with his follow-up when a goal seemed the inevitable outcome.
But from the resulting corner, Whitehead's delivery into the six yard box found Jones rising unmarked to plant his header past Haimov.
That gave City momentum to pile the pressure on Maccabi and Etherington found Wilson raiding on the overlap and the full back made good ground to the edge of the box before trying to catch Haimov off his line with a chip.
Maccabi's defence was tested out again when Huth launched the ball into the box from a deep position but although Jerome flicked it on, Jones was unable to latch on to it at the far post and the ball drifted behind for a goal kick.
City went further in front in the 24th minute and predictably enough it came from a header as Maccabi's vulnerability was exposed again.
A free kick on the right hand side was whipped in by Etherington and Jerome timed his run to flick a header past the advancing Haimov.
There was a rare moment of concern for City when Shawcross made a mistake, but Upson was alert to the situation to close down Konate, who found Atar screaming in his ear in frustration that he had not tried to cross to him in the middle.
But the game was effectively over as a contest in City's next attack as Wilson headed forward a poor kick for Jerome to break clear.
He managed to beat the advancing Haimov to the ball and then turned it back to Shotton who calmly slid his shot into the unguarded net for his third goal of the season and his first senior goal at the Britannia Stadium.
It seemed as though City could a lot more goals on the night at this stage, especially when Jones then saw another header well-saved by Haimov.
But the Potters suffered a setback in the closing stages of the first half when Jerome, who had been booked for dissent earlier, was ruled to have caught Ziv with his outstretched arm as the Maccabi defender went down in dramatic fashion.
With Jerome shown a second yellow card, Ziv found himself the target of boos from the home crowd whenever he touched the ball before the break.
The second half began in a similar way to the first with Maccabi playing the ball around without any real cutting edge at the end of it and the boos continued to ring around the stadium, particularly whenever Ziv was in possession.
The contest was reduced to ten-a-side five minutes after the break when Ziv was shown a straight red for reacting to a challenge from Shotton.
The Maccabi defender lashed out, sending his boot flying into the assistant referee, and so the referee had little alternative but to give him his marching orders much to the delight of the crowd following his part in Jerome's dismissal.
The game burst to life again when Shotton burst forward from his own half, evading two challenges on his way, and he sent over a cross which was met by Jones' firm header which beat the diving Haimov but flashed wide of the upright.
City made their first change of the night when Wilkinson was brought on in place of Wilson, meaning that Huth switched to left back.
The big defender was immediately involved in another raid on Maccabi in which carried the ball from his own half into the penalty area, but he was crowded out by three defenders in the end and eventually lost possession.
The Potters were then given another chance to cause the visitors problems from a set-piece and Etherington's delivery into the box found Shawcross rising above Haimov, but his header at full stretch flew high and wide of the target.
Another change was made by Pulis when he took Huth off after the defender had been booked for dissent, having been pulled up for a foul when in fact it appeared as though he was the one being impeded by Vered.
Walters came on for Huth, while Palacios was also introduced moments later with Etherington making way on that occasion.
The former Tottenham player was soon in the thick of the action by delivering a pass through to Jones bursting forward and his powerfully struck shot was charged down by Haimov when a fourth goal seemed on the cards.