STOKE CITY surrendered a two-goal cushion at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Swansea City came from behind to secure a share of the spoils.
The Potters looked to be on course for a fourth victory in five top-flight matches thanks to well-taken efforts from birthday boy Ibrahim Afellay and Spanish maestro Bojan, either side of the interval.
However, a goal out of nowhere from Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson midway through the second half ignited what was to be an impressive late Swans fightback.
Substitute Alberto Paloschi had only been on the field for a matter of minutes before he made a telling contribution to the game 10 minutes from time.
The Italian frontman received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, swivelled and let rip a powerful strike that deflected off Phillip Wollscheid to leave Jakob Haugaard stranded.
The goal was arguably the visitors just rewards for their vastly improved second half showing, although Mark Hughes will be ruing his side’s inability to see the game out comfortably.
Prior to kick-off the Welshman handed Danish stopper Haugaard his maiden Premier League outing in Jack Butland’s absence, with Shay Given being forced to settle for a spot amongst the substitutes.
He made two other changes to the eleven that beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road two weeks earlier as Bojan deputised for the injured Jonathan Walters and the fit-again Erik Pieters replaced Marc Muniesa.
The home side looked bright during the initial exchanges with Marko Arnautovic proving a real nuisance to the Swans’ rearguard with his power and pace on the left flank, although it was teammate Afellay who did the real damage early on.
The Dutch international, who was celebrating his 30th birthday, raced to the back post to meet a delightful ball from the Austrian and planted his header beyond the reach of Lukasz Fabianski to cap off a fine week.
At the other end Haugaard did well to gather a dangerous ball into the box and then watched thankfully as Bafetembi Gomis lashed a wasteful effort well over the bar from the edge of the area.
That was as good as it got for the visitors in the first half as the hosts looked by far the brighter of the two teams but unable to add to their goal tally, despite the best efforts of Bojan and Giannelli Imbula.
Shortly after the restart the Potters delivered what many thought would be the killer blow as Bojan marked his return to the starting line-up with a pin-point left foot strike which Fabianski could only get his fingers to before the ball nestled in the corner of the net.
Francesco Guidolin looked for an immediate response and shook things up by introducing the more direct Jefferson Montero, who immediately changed the complexion of the game.
The pacey Ecuadorian winger added width to the side and they capitalised on that with some good build up play down the right from Kyle Naughton before Sigurdsson halved the deficit with a thumping effort from distance.
The home side looked rattled and as the game wore on the Swans gained momentum. Suddenly the game was on a knife edge and if any side was to score a fourth goal of the afternoon it looked likely to be Welsh side.
Frustratingly that was exactly how it transpired as, with just 10 minutes of the fixture remaining, Paloschi, who had moments earlier been introduced to the action, produced a thumping strike that cannoned off Wollscheid and levelled the scoreline.
The small contingent of travelling supporters were in delirium, whilst the home fans, almost 27,000 of them, were shell-shocked.
Mark Hughes added Stephen Ireland to the mix late on, following the earlier introduction of Mame Diouf, but it failed to spark a late winner for his side, although Afellay rifled narrowly over from 20-yards whilst Joselu thumped a rasping effort straight into the chest of Fabianski.