TEN MAN Stoke City overcame the controversial sending off of Rory Delap to book their place in the FA Cup quarter finals for a third successive season . . . and so move within one step of a return to Wembley Stadium after their glorious success in last season's competition.
Delap was shown a red card by referee Mike Jones for a tackle on Crawley Town defender David Hunt in the early stages of the fifth round tie, but goals from Jon Walters and Peter Crouch secured their place in the quarter final draw.
Republic of Ireland international Walters fired home a penalty five minutes before half time after Ryan Shawcross had been bundled over by Kyle McFadzean.
And then England striker Crouch headed home a Glenn Whelan free kick six minutes after the break to make City's passage through a comfortable one.
It had all seemed so different when Delap was given his marching orders, even though television replays showed it wasn't worthy of a red card. But if anything the Potters looked the better side from the moment they went down to ten men.
Pulis introduced fresh legs following the Valencia tie by making six changes, one of which was enforced by the domestic ban being served by Huth and that allowed Upson to return in the centre of defence alongside Shawcross.
The surprise was that Collins returned to the side due to the fact that Wilson was struggling with a knock in the lead-up to the game, while Shotton, Whelan, Whitehead and Jerome were also included in the starting line-up.
City immediately found themselves under pressure when Shotton was caught in possession which allowed Crawley to force their first corner of the game, but that gave Collins a chance to make his first contribution with a clearance.
It was clear from the outset that the League Two side's biggest threat would come from set-pieces and throw-ins in much the same way that it would probably also come from the Potters too, and another corner delivered from the right by Hunt picked out the incoming Mills whose header flew well off target, much to his frustration.
There was a big let off for last season's finalists from Hunt's next corner sent over from the right, as Begovic and Collins were caught in two minds, leaving Crouch off balance as he attempted to clear and the ball looped up and hit the bar before Whelan managed to scramble it away to safety.
After soaking up some early pressure, City carved out their first opening courtesy of a long throw-in launched by Delap for Crouch to head over.
And then Delap produced a penetrating run down the left before finding Walters who swivelled quickly to unleash a shot from the left hand edge of the box which had insufficient curl on it to trouble Gilmartin diving low to his left.
City were making much of their headway down the left hand side and Jerome was the next to venture on a run down that flank before trying to pick out Crouch with his cross, but Mills turned the ball back to his 'keeper Gilmartin.
But they were dealt a big blow moments later when Delap went in for a challenge with Hunt and following protests from the Crawley manager and their players, referee Jones decided to show the midfielder a red card.
That prompted further protests which were mainly directed at the fourth official Probert who had appeared to have had some influence in the decision, but television replays clearly showed that it wasn't a sending off.
Ironically enough, after a somewhat uneasy start to the game, City looked more comfortable after going down to ten men.
Crawley resorted to long range shots and Begovic's handling had to be clean when McFadzean tried his luck from 25 yards out.
There was a moment of encouragement for the Potters when Crouch laid the ball off Walters and his shot from long range well wide, while Jerome latched onto a ball from Whitehead to unleash a shot from a tight angle to no avail.
But five minutes before the break, City were handed the chance to go in front from the penalty spot when Shawcross went down in the box under a challenge from McFadzean and referee Jones had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Walters, who had missed his last penalty in the West Brom match, stepped up to calmly fire his shot to the right of Gilmartin.
In many respects, it was no more than City deserved after responding so well to the shock of going down to ten men so early in the tie.
They began the second half looking to secure themselves a two-goal cushion, but Jerome was a little ambitious with his long range effort.
However, six minutes after the break, they grabbed a second goal when they were awarded a free kick for a foul on Jerome 20 yards out.
When Whelan floated the ball to the right hand edge of the six yard box, Crouch's firm header sailed beyond Gilmartin into the top corner.
Though Crawley showed plenty of endeavour, they struggled to find the final ball which would cause City major problems, but at the other end there were moments when they threatened to make the scoreline even more decisive.
There was, however, a glimmer of hope for the home side when Watt slipped the ball to Barnett on the edge of the box, but his powerfully struck left foot shot was deflected off target by the close attention of Upson to ensure it came to nothing.
City hit back and had the ball broken for them in the box, they would have added a third with Shawcross trying to apply the final touch.
Begovic's handling was excellent once again to protect the Potters' lead after Collins had been caught in possession, Watt being the player to benefit as he collected a pass from substitute Neilson to try his luck from the edge of the box.
Whelan was the next to get caught out on a pitch that was cutting up and Watt took advantage with a burst forward, but when it opened up for McFadzean, his left foot effort was neither one nor the other as it rolled tamely across goal.
Crawley mounted another assault in a desperate attempt to get themselves back into the tie and McFadzean figured prominently again with a shot that was charged down before Watt nipped in to send a header wide as Begovic rushed off his line.
When City were awarded a free kick in the closing stages of the tie, Crouch showed an excellent first touch to bring down Begovic's long kick, but unfortunately his second touch was a rather wayward shot which flew high and wide.
With three minutes injury-time added on by the officials, there was time for one more scare as Neilson played the ball into the danger area and when Begovic was beaten by the header of Barnett, Collins fortuitously hooked the ball off the line.