STOKE CITY took the lead against Crystal Palace but a second-half fightback led by Dwight Gayle condemned the Potters to a 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park.
Charlie Adam’s first goal for almost a year had the visitors ahead at half-time in the Capital, but Gayle’s brace means City finish their campaign on the road empty-handed and unable to match their Club-record Premier League points tally.
That was the aim for Mark Hughes and his side heading into the final two games of the season, and his starting line-up was identical to that which faced Sunderland at home seven days ago, with the only squad change coming on the bench with Stephen Ireland being preferred to Marc Muniesa.
That meant Adam played in behind Peter Crouch, and he notched for the first time this campaign after Giannelli Imbula found Marko Arnautovic, who turned and fed Adam in behind the defence to calmly slot home with a first-time finish.
It was a well-deserved goal for City, who had perhaps been slightly unlucky not to score beforehand through Xherdan Shaqiri, who forced Wayne Hennessey into a one-on-one save after Arnautovic’s pass.
The Swiss then dragged a shot wide of Hennessey’s post, whilst Crouch also went close with a header before Adam broke the deadlock.
Jakob Haugaard in the City goal was more than just a spectator at the other end, however, although most of his early work was fairly routine and never likely to trouble him.
Stoke had looked comfortable at the back throughout most of the first period, but they were unable to stop FA Cup finalists Palace getting back on level terms just a minute after the restart.
Gayle will go down as the name on the scoresheet, but his strike owed much to the direct running and persistence of Yannick Bolasie, who drove through the City defence towards the box.
The home fans behind the goal thought his chance had gone when his shot was blocked, but Gayle was on hand to pounce and put the ball into the far corner to even things up.
Although Palace pressed for a quickfire second, the Potters came back with a good chance of their own when Adam was fouled just outside the box. The free-kick looked in an inviting position but Arnautovic was unable to take advantage, firing well over.
After that is wen palace looked at their most threatening, with Gayle playing Jason Puncheon in behind, only for him to lash over himself, whilst Connor Wickham hit the post from Pape Souare’s cross.
The lively Adam was withdrawn with Shaqiri in a double change on 65 minutes, with Jon Walters and Stephen Ireland being introduced in their place.
And it was only three minutes before the tide of the game had truly turned. Hennessey’s long kick sent Gayle on the run and after Shawcross tripped him, he stepped up to curl the free-kick into the back of the net to hand them the advantage.
City had sights at goal in the final 20 minutes, but struggled to test Hennessey. The best chance of a leveller came with only four minutes left on the clock with Arnautovic latching on to a through ball, but he could only power his shot over after rounding the Welsh goalkeeper.
The miss summed up a frustrating afternoon for City, who close the campaign next weekend against West Ham with their ambitions still firmly set on a top-half finish.