A STUNNING second half comeback ensured Mark Hughes of a winning start in what was his first competitive game at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Strikes from Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross secured the Potters all three points against newly promoted Crystal Palace, after they had taken the lead midway through the first half thanks to summer signing Marouane Chamakh.
An inspired half-time team talk from the new manager worked wonders for the hosts however, as firstly Adam displayed composure to level matters from 8-yards, before Shawcross put his side in front four minutes later with an almost identical effort.
Adam, who featured prominently for Palace boss Ian Holloway during their spell together at Blackpool, was included in the side from the off after Hughes decided to hand the more creative midfielder a starting role, with Glenn Whelan the player making way for the Scotland international.
That proved to be the only change to the side from the one that was narrowly beaten by Liverpool at Anfield seven days earlier.
The visitors meanwhile handed first starts to three of their summer signings, including winger Jason Puncheon, who penned a permanent deal with the Eagles just 48 hours prior to kick off.
Moroccan ace Chamakh also started as did Spanish under 21 starlet Jose Campana, a friend and international teammate of Stoke’s recent acquisition Marc Muniesa.
In fact, there was a very Spanish-esque feel to the game during the early proceedings, especially with the Potters displaying a newfound level of composure and patience as they gradually moved the ball up field.
That said, it was a long punt forward from Geoff Cameron that brought with it a first sight of goal for the hosts, as the Palace rearguard could only half clear his diagonal ball straight into the path of Adam, who forced Julian Speroni into what in truth was a routine save from 25-yards out.
The fluent hosts continued to dominate the opening exchanges with the lively Matthew Etherington earning his side a succession of corners – none of which unfortunately threatened to breach the Palace goal.
The Potters weren’t to have it all their own way however, with Holloway’s men showing signs of creativity themselves, especially in wideman Dwight Gayle, who used his pace to burst down the left and force Begovic into his first save of the afternoon.
Stoke should have taken the lead midway through the half as home debutant Erik Pieters and Etherington linked up well down the left, teeing up the unmarked Peter Crouch inside the 6-yard box, only for the striker to head over the bar.
Stoke were made to pay for that missed opportunity bang on the 30-minute mark as a hopeful ball forward from Gabbidon caught Shawcross napping, and Chamakh, who arrived from Arsenal earlier this month, took one touch and drilled the ball into the back of the net.
The Britannia Stadium was stunned, yet by the time the Palace supporters had just ended their celebrations, the 25,000 Stoke fans in attendance thought their side had levelled as Crouch glanced an Adam ball seemingly into the top corner of the net, only for the underneath of the crossbar to come to Palace’s rescue.
At the other end, the visitors almost had a second as Dean Moxey drilled a thunderous effort inches wide of the post, before Jose Campana curled a 30-yard free-kick a foot over the bar on the stroke of half-time, after Shawcross was booked for pulling down Gayle.
Stoke displayed a lot more intent during the opening ten minutes of the second period, with Crouch spurning a good opportunity from 5-yards, before other chances came and went with both Nzonzi and Walters failing to hit the target when well positioned.
Hughes’ team talk during the break appeared to have been an inspired one as his side continued in the ascendency and eventually grabbed a deserved leveller through Adam, who calmly slotted the ball into the far corner after Crouch had done well to free him.
A rousing rendition of Delilah had barely finished by the time that the hosts had completely turned the game on its head with Shawcross finding himself in an unusual position through on goal, yet he showed the instincts of a proven striker by dispatching the ball beyond the outstretched Speroni to send the supporters into delirium.
Those goals had undeniably changed the entire complexion of the game, with Stoke looking by far the more likely of adding to their tally, rather than Palace managing to find themselves a leveller.
Dutch international Pieters, enjoying the freedom he was given down the left hand side, made several buccaneering runs down the flank, following each of them up with equally as impressive balls into the box, the only downfall being nobody was able to latch on to the end of them.
Nzonzi went agonisingly close to scoring for a second successive home Premier League game, having netted against Tottenham back in May, by letting rip an unstoppable effort towards the far corner of the net, only to see his strike bounce off the post and away from danger.
In what was the visitors first real surge forward, Begovic was forced into a stunning save by Puncheon who looked destined to net on his Eagles debut, having only arrived from the south coast during the week.
A series of hopeful balls were launched into the Potters 18-yard box as Palace desperately searched for a late goal, but Begovic and his back four stood firm to soak up the pressure, and hand Hughes a winning start at the Britannia.