A stunning display from ex-Potter Marko Arnautovic fired David Moyes’ West Ham United to their first away win of the season at the bet 365 Stadium yesterday afternoon, to place Mark Hughes in deep slumber.
The visitors first took the lead after 18 minutes, Mark Noble converting from the penalty spot after Referee Graham Scott awarded a very controversial penalty.
Arnautovic’s brilliance silenced the home fans just after midway through the second period to double that advantage, before substitute Diafra Sakho made sure of his team’s first victory away at Stoke since early 2014, from close-range in the final ten minutes.
A crucial three points lifts the Irons out of the Relegation for the first time in several weeks and all the way up to 15th position, while, the Staffordshire club on the receiving end of that beating have now fallen to 17th place.
From the start in a chilly Staffordshire, Potters Boss Hughes decided on just one change from his side’s loss at Turf Moor on Tuesday night, for what was a pivotal clash for his future.
Replacing Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma was German defender Kevin Wimmer, Stoke’s main danger in the attacking part of the pitch, however, came from veteran Peter Crouch and former Manchester United striker Mame Biram Diouf, the latter enjoying his 30th birthday.
Meanwhile, visiting Manager Moyes was forced into one alteration of his own in the wake of an impressive London Stadium goalless draw with Arsenal on Wednesday evening.
Vice-Captain Winston Reid, having, picked up one too many yellow cards so far, this campaign, was replaced by returning centre-back James Collins, Arthur Masuaku and Michail Antonio were set to prove the danger man at the opposite end for the away side.
When the tie finally got underway, after an hour’s delay following a power surge at the Bet365 Stadium, an event that kept thousands of travelling fans stick outside the Ground, it would be more than worth the wait.
In the wake of a fairly even start to the clash, the hosts would be prevented with a magnificent opportunity to take the lead.
Xherdan Shaqiri whipped in a stunning free-kick, finding the head of defender Ryan Shawcross, his effort striking the post, a miss that would prove to be very costly indeed.
Just seconds later, Moyes’ boys were on the counter-attack, Manuel Lanzini breaking superbly after receiving a pass from Masuaku, eventually going to ground off the challenge of Erik Pieters.
The Referee pointed to the spot, replays showing the minimal contact involved and the Argentine making the most of things ever so slightly.
But, the decision stood, and Skipper Noble stepped up, finishing calmly past Jack Butland to mark his 300th PL appearance with a goal, although having to depart a short while later with a knock.
It could have been yet more before the half-time whistle for the visitors, Arnautovic muscling his way clean through after a smart pass, however, Butland was able to stand tall and get in the way of that one.
At the other end, Stoke were posing little threat to the goal of Adrian San-Miguel, later going on to end the game without registering a single shot on target, this didn’t mean they didn’t have their chances in the second-half though.
Surely the biggest of them came on 72 minutes, a great cross being lifted in by Charlie Adam, who had just come off the bench, finding Shawcross once more.
Again, he couldn’t find the target despite being on his own with the goal bearing down, just prior to this, club-record signing Arnautovic had also somehow passed up three huge openings.
The first came directly from a long-range Aaron Cresswell free-kick, the Austrian arriving at the back post to head over the bar by inches, before receiving a superb Masuaku pass, running in from the left and hitting the side netting with his low shot.
However, the clearest of them was the last as Lanzini picked him out with an intricate ball, twisting and turning to unleash an effort that struck the underside of the crossbar, they just couldn’t keep him out for much longer.
Arnautovic finally had reason to goad the fans that once cheered him, and it would be a moment of sheer Hammers brilliance.
Holding the ball up nicely on the counter, the Austria star gave the ball to Lanzini, then ran in behind, the Argentina International playing him through with a delightful chip, all that he needed to do was volley low past Butland.
And he did that at the fifth time of asking, leaving nothing behind with his celebrations, continuing even after he had exited the field a short while after.
There would be yet more cause for celebration for the vocal away fans, when, after a stern backline, helped by youngster Declan Rice featuring just in front, blocked numerous goal-bound Stoke efforts, the three points were secured.
Lanzini was at the forefront of it all once more, in addition, he took a Pedro Obiang pass in his stride, playing in Sakho, who had already passed up one golden opportunity.
This time, the Senegal striker made no mistake whatsoever, neatly putting the ball past Butland and into the back of the net, sending the Claret & Blue Army home on cloud nine.
In contrast, Hughes could well now be faced with the sack on the flip side of things, should the Welshman still be in charge by then, his side will face off with West Bromwich Albion on home turf next Saturday.
Meanwhile, as the Moyes revolution continues, attention in East London will now turn to the Carabao Cup and a Quarter-Final trip to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening.