PETER ODEMWINGIE’S fourth goal in three games was enough to claim a third consecutive victory for the Potters against Hull City on Saturday afternoon and all but secure a seventh consecutive top-flight campaign.
The Nigerian international expertly rifled home the only goal of the game shortly after the hour mark after latching on to a misplaced James Chester ball deep inside his own half.
The triumph brought an end to a historic month for Mark Hughes’ side, having recorded a Club record 13 Premier League points from it, enough to hit the much talked about 40-point safety barrier.
The game could have panned out somewhat differently however had it not been for the brilliance of Asmir Begovic, who twice denied the visitors either side of the interval with world class saves.
In the end, the Potters could have added to their tally with both Stephen Ireland and Marko Arnautovic bringing the best out of Hull’s deputy ‘keeper Steve Harper.
Prior to kick-off Hughes handed Ireland an immediate recall back into the starting eleven as the Welshman made one change to the side that recorded an emphatic 4-1 victory at Villa Park last weekend.
The former Aston Villa midfielder came into the team at the expense of Wilson Palacios, having been ineligible to feature against his former side six days ago through a contractual agreement between the two clubs.
Charlie Adam was named amongst the substitutes after completing his three-match ban, whilst there were also spots in the matchday squad for John Guidetti and Matthew Etherington.
Buoyed by three victories and a draw in the four previous encounters this month, it was no surprise to see the home side quickest off the blocks with Arnautovic and Peter Crouch impressing early on.
Despite such a bright showing though, it was in fact the Tigers who had the first opportunity to break the deadlock as a classic counter attack culminated in Tom Huddlestone manoeuvring enough space for himself to seriously test Begovic from 25-yards.
Moments later the hosts were warned of the dangers possessed by Steve Bruce’s side for a second time as Liam Rosenior burst into the penalty area and planted a header over the bar, when he really should have opened his account for the afternoon.
The continued improvement of the visitors during the opening 45 minutes was apparent as Stoke struggled to find the same fluidity and panache that had served them so well in the recent victories over West Ham and Aston Villa.
Odewmingie, who was again impressing in his latest outing for the Potters, tried his best to ignite the hosts into action with a thunderous effort from long-range that flashed wide of the post, whilst Crouch was unable to make contact with a deep Geoff Cameron centre.
The final 20 minutes of action prior to the break failed to produce any real newsworthy action, although the start of the second period did herald a much brighter start with the home side surging forward at every available opportunity in a bid to fashion the first opening of the game.
Odemwingie continued to be the player looking most likely to find an avenue beyond the Tigers backline with his sheer pace and cleverness on the ball, but even when he was at his best, he was unable to beat Harper who saved well down to his left.
15 minutes later though there was nothing the former Newcastle stopper was able to do to deny the 32-year-old, who stole a march on Curtis Davies having capitalised on a poor ball across field from Chester, took three strides forward and slammed the ball into the bottom corner of the net to send the majority of supporters inside the stadium into delirium.
The goal galvanised the hosts, as the confidence levels grew after Odemwingie's opener, and looked the more likely of the two sides to go on and to the afternoon's tally.
Arnautovic showed flashes of his brilliance on the left throughout the game, but wasn't able to follow that up with a free-kick from 30-yards that flew over the bar.
Meanwhile, Ireland and Crouch linked up well to free Odemwingie on the left, he side-stepped Davies but fired his ball across goal out of reach of substitute Guidetti, who was thrust into action minutes earlier.
Steve Bruce introduced both Sone Aluko and Yannick Sagbo late on in a bid to salvage a point for his side, but despite their presence the Tigers rarely seriously threatened Begovic's goal.