CHARLIE ADAM chose the perfect moment to fire home his first goal for Stoke City to give them a hard-earned second Barclays Premier League victory of the season over struggling Queens Park Rangers at the Britannia Stadium.
The Scottish international was on hand to convert a far post chance with a first-time shot in the 52nd minute and the Potters hung on to that slender lead in the face of some intense Rangers pressure to claim three welcome points.
Although it was not pretty stuff and it required Asmir Begovic to pull off a stunning reflex save to deny Esteban Granero, City also had their opportunities with Peter Crouch and substitute Michael Kightly going close in particular.
While the Potters could celebrate their second win which takes them to twelve points, the result was a further setback for Rangers boss Mark Hughes who have now failed to win any of their first eleven Premier League matches.
Tony Pulis had made two changes to the side beaten at Norwich City a week earlier, with winger Matthew Etherington and midfielder Glenn Whelan recalled to the starting line-up in place of Michael Kightly and Dean Whitehead.
The Potters immediately forced a corner after a raid down the left by Wilkinson, but Etherington’s ball into the area was half cleared by Nelsen and when Whelan hoisted it back into the area, it carried harmlessly through to the Rangers ‘keeper Cesar.
After Rangers had threatened for the first time with the overlapping Traore whipping over a menacing cross which was eventually cleared, City’s responded with Adam finding the space 25 yards out to unleash a low shot which flashed past the post.
Hoilett caused one or two moments of anxiety for the Potters defence with his pace and skill which were clearly making life difficult for Cameron, and on one occasion it took an intervention from Shawcross to ensure that his burst forward came to nothing.
A mis-placed header by Shawcross presented Rangers with an opportunity when they had plenty of players forward, but City’s captain recovered to clear the danger when Granero delivered a cross from the right hand side with Cisse and Taarabt ready to pounce.
Midway through the first half, a long ball forward from Shawcross began what was City’s best move of the match at that stage as Crouch headed it on for Walters to allow the ball to run across his body before swivelling to volley his shot over the bar from twelve yards.
There was more encouragement for the Potters as Wilkinson, who was having some success charging forward down the left, had a shot blocked on the edge of the box after Rangers had only managed to half clear a corner swung in by Whelan.
City sustained the pressure and when Cameron hoisted a deep ball into the box from the right hand side Walters got above his marker to head just past the post.
The opening goal should have come in the Potters’ next attack as Nzonzi’s determination carried him into an excellent position from which he turned a low cross into the path, but Crouch saw his first time shot flash the wrong side of Cesar’s left hand post.
After further chances went begging for the home side, Rangers almost broke away and grabbed the lead right on the stroke of half time while Walters was being treated for a head injury, Hoilett seizing on a mistake by Whelan to set up Taarabt, but his attempt to chip the advancing Begovic from a tight angle proved to be well off target, much to City’s relief.
The only change made at half-time was a tactical one by Pulis, who switched full-backs to allow Wilkinson to deal with the threat of Hoilett on the left.
Having knocked at the door a number of times in the closing stages of the first half, City went in front with the second period in its early stages.
When Huth lifted a free kick into the box, Walters flicked it on with his head and Crouch’s attempt to bring it under control saw it carry through to the unmarked Adam at the far post and his first-time shot was planted beyond the reach of Cesar.
Rangers threatened to hit back immediately when Taarabt’s penetrating run ended with him unleashing a shot that took a wicked deflection off Cameron’s outstretched boot which forced Begovic to turn it over the bar at full stretch.
The goal had stung the visitors into action and they looked menacing on a number of occasions running at the City defence and Nzonzi was booked for a foul on Taarabt which gave Rangers a free kick 25 yards out, but Granero curled his effort wide.
Granero must have thought that he had hauled Rangers level when Taarabt dragged the ball back to the Spaniard and he met it with a powerful drive heading towards the far corner, but Begovic pulled off an excellent reflex save to keep it out.
Pulis used his three substitutions in quick succession to introduce some fresh legs as first Kightly, then Jones and finally Whitehead were all introduced into the action with Etherington, Crouch and Adam being the players to make way.
City continued to soak up a considerable amount of Rangers pressure as they probed for an equaliser, but they were given some respite when Bosingwa ambitiously tried a shot from long range which he got horribly wrong.
The Potters should have put the game beyond Rangers’ reach when Cameron and Jones linked up well before the Trinidadian set up an excellent opportunity for Kightly, but he couldn’t beat Cesar with his close range effort.
However, City ensured that they weren't made to pay for that miss in the four minutes added on.