Stoke returned to winning ways with a convincing victory against lowly Wycombe Wanderers at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters had lost three on the bounce heading into the game, and needed a win to claw back their ever-diminishing playoff hopes.
Michael O’Neill made just the solitary change from a controversial 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea, with the injured Danny Batth dropping out for Jack Clarke as the boss reverted to a 4231 formation.
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Wycombe sit dead last in the Championship, but may have seen light at the end of the tunnel with a win in the Potteries.
Gareth Ainsworth shuffled his pack as McCarthy, Mehmeti, McCleary and Muskwe came in for Grimmer, Horgan, Gape and Onyedinma.
The reverse fixture was won by Stoke, as Nick Powell headed home a 72nd minute winner in front of a socially-distanced crowd at Adams Park.
Stoke had the first big chance of the game inside five minutes, as Powell crashed a header against the crossbar after Smith had hung the ball up in the box.
An electric first ten saw Steven Fletcher have a good shot, but it was an easy gather for Wycombe keeper David Stockdale.
City continued their assault on the Wanderers goal and Stockdale made a smart stop to his left to deny Jack Clarke his first Stoke goal on 13 minutes.
The balls into the box were causing trouble for the Chairboys defence, but Stoke had still somehow not found a breakthrough after 25 minutes.
The visitors had a much-needed break in play as Stockdale went down on 27 minutes, but the 34 year-old deputy keeper was fine to carry on.
Wycombe grew into the game as the half hour mark passed, and Uche Ikpeazu’s header was a warning sign of what they could offer from set pieces.
Another huge chance went abegging for the hosts after Powell raced through, but his squared cross was just inches in front of Jacob Brown as the winger connected with the upright and not the football.
A rare surge forward saw shouts for a penalty from the Wycombe players as Rhys Norrington-Davies looked to have impeded Admiral Muskwe in the box, but referee Woolmer was having none of it and play went on.
The away side were content on seeing the half out, and the six minutes added on was a clear indication of how they had tried to break the game up with stoppages.
The visitors were pushing for an opener however, and Muskwe’s deflected shot had Angus Gunn worried- but the ball was well wide.
Stoke dominated the ball but lacked a clinical edge in the first period.
Wycombe’s game plan was clear, to frustrate and wind up the City players, and it worked to perfection in the first 45.
The hosts started brightly again but once again the final ball was lacking. Joe Allen’s header wide was their first big chance of the half.
Nick Powell had the ball in the net on 50 minutes, but was adjudged to have fouled Anthony Stewart before finishing the move off.
Brown came off ten minutes into the half as Tashan Oakley-Boothe made just his second appearance of the calendar year.
The ball would just not go in for Stoke. A great move saw Norrington-Davies drill a ball into the box, with Joe Allen missing an open goal after Stockdale had misjudged it but got a slight touch to put the Welshman off.
Wycombe had a brilliant chance of their own as Ryan Tafazolli saw a free header from a corner well saved by Gunn.
After 64 minutes, the home side finally took a deserved lead. A nice one-two between Fletcher and Norrington-Davies saw the left-back take the ball in his stride, and tuck the ball under Stockdale as he sped into the box.
The celebrations were full of relief from the Stoke players, they had struck just as the game had looked to be getting beyond them.
Just five minutes later and the hosts had wrapped the game up. Scorer turned provider as Norrington-Davies put a deep corner in for Harry Souttar to head home for 2-0.
Two for Stoke, and both players had notched their first ever goals for the club.
Wycombe pushed for an avenue back into the game, but Gunn was left largely untested in the closing stages with substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa glancing a header wide on 85 minutes.
Joe Allen had a last-ditch chance after a quick Stoke break, but his shot from the edge of the box was well saved by Stockdale.
Norrington-Davies fired over the bar from close range with seconds left as he hunted for his second of the game.
FT: Stoke City 2-0 Wycombe Wanderers
MOTM: Rhys Norrington-Davies
A largely convincing win from Michael O’Neill’s men, and it was a welcome clean sheet after going through a rough patch at the back.
It had looked like the goal would never come for the Potters, but a moment of magic saw a resolute Wycombe defence finally broken and Stoke did not look back from that point.
The Chairboys now sit 12 points from safety and will likely be planning for life back in the third tier already.
Stoke move up to 10th with the win as they travel to Middlesbrough next time out. Wycombe take on QPR in midweek.
Match report by Oliver Walton.