STOKE CITY finally ended their Stadium of Light hoodoo with a comprehensive victory over Sunderland on Saturday afternoon to elevate themselves up into ninth place in the table.
The Potters had gone almost a quarter of a century without tasting league success in the North East, but they put that record to bed in the most emphatic fashion courtesy of their biggest away triumph of the season to date.
Marko Arnautovic netted an emphatically taken brace during a fruitful opening period, before Peter Crouch capped off a stunning 45 minutes with a third - his 50th for the Club in all competitions - shortly before the interval.
With the seconds ticking down to the break, Jermain Defoe offered some hope to the obviously exasperated home supporters with a well-taken effort after finding space behind the City backline.
That was as good as it got for David Moyes’ troops however, as they struggled to forge too many more opportunities - leaving the Potters purring on Wearside as they claimed three valuable top-flight points and provided the travelling 1000 or so fans with the perfect response to last weekend’s disappointing FA Cup elimination.
Mark Hughes made three changes to his side before kick-off with the midfield trio of Glenn Whelan, Charlie Adam and Joe Allen all returning, at the expense of Ibrahim Afellay, Giannelli Imbula and the injured Bojan.
The three added steel and determination to the City side, leaving the likes of Arnautovic and the impressive Xherdan Shaqiri to provide the craft in what was an incredibly polished showing on the road.
Arnautovic had already gone close on a couple of occasions by the time he broke the deadlock shortly before the quarter-hour mark, rifling the ball past Vito Mannone from an acute angle after the stopper had thwarted his initial effort.
A sublime passage of play that involved Erik Pieters, Shaqiri and Crouch culminated in the Austrian doubling the lead soon after, and only a mixture of Mannone’s left hand and the post denied Shaqiri from adding to the tally moments later.
Stoke sensed blood and pressed forward in a bid to rub further salt into the gaping Sunderland wounds, but spaces left open at the back, as the players surged forward, enabled Defoe to get in behind, and fire a smart strike into the back of the net via the inside of the post.
For 10 minutes either side of the break the hosts, buoyed on by their more vocal supporters, rallied, with Lee Grant having to be alert to deny Patrick van Aanholt whilst Sebastien Larsson curled a strike harmlessly over following some intelligent link-up play.
At the opposite end of the field Adam whipped an audacious free-kick marginally wide of the upright, Crouch fired tamely at Mannone when well positioned and Joe Allen warmed the hands of the Sunderland stopper as the visitors upped the ante somewhat.
Hughes was even afforded the luxury of thrusting Ibrahim Afellay on to the field late on to give him further playing time after his recent return from a long-term injury, and help acclimatise Julien Ngoy to the Premier League with another late cameo from the bench.
All in all, a hugely satisfying day in the North East for the Potters, who now look forward to next weekend’s showdown with Manchester United, on the back of successive league triumphs over Watford and the Black Cats.