Teemu Pukki scored twice as Norwich smashed a despondent Stoke side to go back to the top of the Championship.
Stoke headed into the game in poor form, without a win since December 19, but Michael O’Neill’s options were boosted by the return of Nick Powell and James Chester to the matchday squad.
Both players came straight into the team after their short-term injuries, replacing James McClean and Danny Batth from their previous 0-0 draw against Reading.
The Potters would hope for a better result than the return fixture, with Norwich running out 3-2 winners at the bet365 Stadium in November.
Despite still sitting in second place in the league, Daniel Farke’s Norwich had not scored or won in their previous four games.
He rung the changes for his side after a 2-0 defeat to Swansea, bringing in Giannoulis, Buendia and Vrancic for Sorensen, Placheta and Rupp.
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— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) February 13, 2021
Stoke initially started brightly, and Joe Allen saw a volley from a corner whizz just wide after just 90 seconds.
Norwich hit back instantly though and Pukki saw his flicked shot trickle across the face of the goal after a period of play around the Stoke box.
It had been a frantic start from both sides, and Stoke were all over the place at the back with Buendia then missing a golden opportunity to open the scoring after five minutes.
Nick Powell careered a shot off the crossbar on seven minutes, but the play had already been stopped for a foul by Nathan Collins.
The Stoke midfield was getting bypassed way too easily and Norwich were shaping attack after attack in the first 15 minutes.
It was on 15 minutes when the deadlock was finally broken, and it was a brilliantly worked move from the home side.
A passing move constructed from the back found its way to Todd Cantwell, and the midfielder got a break in the box and finished with aplomb to open the scoring.
It was a deserved opener for the Canaries after a shocking start from Stoke.
Stoke had the ball in the net on 26 minutes, but it was another Steven Fletcher goal ruled out for offside, similar to last time out against Reading.
The ball had been worked to Jack Clarke on the right of the Norwich box and he chipped it in for Fletcher to head home, but the Scot was a step in front of the defenders.
The visitors had some chances throughout the rest of the half, but just before the end they were again punished for some awful defending.
Morgan Fox was closed down well by Buendia and the Argentinian blocked his clearance, took the ball in his stride and played through Teemu Pukki.
The Finnish international had only Gunn to beat and made no mistake, 2-0.
Another goal given away far too easy by Stoke, and now they had an even bigger mountain to climb.
Half time: Norwich City 2-0 Stoke City
Despite putting in a woeful performance, Stoke will have felt that they could come out and try and turn the game on its head in the second half at 1-0.
But with Fox’s mistake to allow Norwich to grab another, the game looked as good as over.
Daniel Farke’s side had blown their visitors out of the water so far, and would no doubt look to add to their tally in the second period.
Rabbi Matondo replaced Jack Clarke for Stoke at half-time.
Stoke started on top, and Fletcher should have halved the deficit but instead wasted a huge one-on-one opportunity after Kenny McLean had accidentally played him through on 50 minutes.
Just 15 minutes into the second period and the Potters were handed a lifeline to get back into the game.
Norwich left back Giannoulis played the ball straight to Powell, and Stoke’s leading scorer had a golden opportunity to make it 2-1, which he took with guile.
It was another poor mistake from a full-back and a vital reprieve for the visitors to get back into the game.
Just four minutes later, Norwich restored their two-goal lead.
Giannoulis made his way into the box with ease, and crossed the ball for Buendia to place a first time shot into the far corner. Far too simple yet again for Norwich.
With the game petering out into the last ten minutes, goalscorer Buendia was clattered into by Allen in the box and referee Simpson pointed to the spot for Norwich.
Pukki stepped up to notch his brace, and sent Gunn the wrong way to finish the game once and for all.
Stoke’s afternoon went from bad to worse, as Nathan Collins went down in agony with the clock ticking into injury time.
The young Irishman came off on the stretcher, and Stoke would hope it was not too serious an injury.
Full time: Norwich City 4-1 Stoke City
MOTM: Emiliano Buendia – ran the game for his side after being afforded too much space to do so.
A great attacking performance from Norwich was compounded by a despondent performance all round by the Stoke players.
It was lacklustre in all departments from Michael O’Neill’s men and a deserved wake up call for the players after some average showings in recent weeks.
They simply could not get good passages of play going, and made some schoolboy errors at the back to allow Norwich to take advantage.
Daniel Farke will be ecstatic with his side’s performance, grabbing four goals was a far cry from their previous four games without scoring.
Norwich will hope that is the kick-starter they need to stay in the battle for automatic promotion.
Stoke sit 10th, with a must-win against Sheffield Wednesday up next. Norwich return to the top of the table with the win, and face a trip to Coventry up next.
Match report by Oliver Walton.