STOKE CITY'S hopes of finishing in the top half of the Barclays Premier League were hit by a late winner from Djibril Cisse as Queens Park Rangers claimed the victory which could secure their top-flight status.
Cisse pounced in the 88th minute to break City's resistance when they appeared to be on course to secure their sixth draw in nine matches at Loftus Road, a victory which lifted them out of the Premier League's relegation zone.
The Potters were left to rue missed chance earlier in the game, most notably when Cameron Jerome was through on goal in the third minute but lifted his shot over the bar, while Ricardo Fuller also went close on two occasions.
The defeat leaves City on 44 points in 14th position and means they can now only equal their best Premier League points tally.
Pulis had opted for attacking formation with both Jerome and Fuller in his line-up and it was clear from the outset that both players were going to occupy wide positions.
Wilson began the game in the right back position and was immediately called upon to make a vital clearance when Mackie advanced down the right and played in a low cross.
It was City who should have gone in front in the third minute when Crouch flicked on a long ball forward and found Jerome bursting into the box.
The striker found himself one-on-one with 'keeper Kenny but lifted his shot over the bar from eight yards out.
The Potters then had the opportunity to break forward again when Taiwo slipped on the greasy surface, allowing Jerome to make headway and earn a corner.
Rangers managed to clear the initial ball into the box, but Shawcross headed down into the path of Delap only for Derry to intervene and complete clearance.
The home side were then awarded a free kick for a foul committed by Wilson and Sorensen was called into action for the first time in the encounter.
The Danish international had to dive low to his right to push away the long range shot from Taarabt which gathered pace off the wet playing surface and Mackie hit the sidenetting with the follow up from a tight angle on the left hand edge of the box.
City had appeals for a penalty waved away when Fuller appeared to be upended as he shaped to shoot at goal after a long throw-in from Delap caused problems for the Rangers defence and Huth headed into the Jamaican striker's path.
It was frustrating therefore that Rangers were awarded a free kick for a similar offence deep in Stoke territory and Sorensen was far from convincing with the way in which he came off his line to punch clear Taarabt's menacing ball into the box.
City were almost punished for a mistake by Upson as his attempt to play the ball back to Sorensen set Zamora away down the right hand side.
The England striker pulled the ball back where Barton made a late burst into the box and met it firmly with his head, but straight at Sorensen.
With the Potters' formation proving to be very effective, they carved out another opening on the break as Walters advanced down the right flank and swung in a cross to Jerome, who appeared to clash heads with Onuoha as he tried to meet it.
The striker was able to resume again after lengthy treatment and was soon involved in the action again with a shot which was blocked by Hill.
City made a change at the start of the second half when Shotton was brought on to replace Wilson who had been a doubt in the lead up to the game.
They made an encouraging start after the break with Fuller featuring prominently with runs down both flanks which led to good opportunities.
In the first instance, his cross was from the left was flicked on by Crouch into the path of Jerome who managed to get his foot to it, but it wasn't a decisive touch.
Then, moments later Fuller embarked upon one of his weaving runs before unleashing a curling shot with the left foot which looked to be heading into the top corner with Kenny unable to get anyway near it, but it flashed past the upright.
It was not surprising in the circumstances, with Bolton winning at this stage, that Rangers turned to Cisse to bolster their attack and he was quickly in the thick of the action with an ambitious long range shot which was charged down.
At the other end, Whelan was well off target with a long range shot after Shotton's rather tame cross to the edge of the box had been half cleared.
Midway through the half, Rangers were awarded a free kick when Upson was adjudged to have fouled Zamora on the edge of the box, but Taiwo had two attempts to try and beat the wall with left foot shots, both of which were blocked.
City were looking threatening on the counter attack and there were a number of times when a better final pass could have opened up Rangers.
Sorensen then pulled off a brilliant reflex save to keep out a header from Cisse after the former Liverpool striker had got his head to a cross from Taiwo, the 'keeper diving low to his left to push it away when it appeared to be creeping in.
With the game moving into the closing stages, Pulis made a double change, sending on Jones and Whitehead in place of Fuller and Jerome.
Likewise, Rangers made two substitutions in their desperate push for a goal with Bothroyd and Wright-Phillips being thrown on in place of Derry and Zamora.
With time running out, Crouch close to giving City the lead with a near post header which flashed past the post from a corner swung in by Whitehead from the right.
But when Rangers themselves earned a corner at the other end, they snatched the lead they so badly needed when Ferdinand flicked on the ball into the box from Barton and Cisse was on hand to tuck the ball away from close range to spark wild celebrations among the relieved Rangers fans.
Their joy was followed by the news that West Brom had snatched an equaliser at Bolton to make their position look even better in the battle to avoid relegation.