A quick-fire double from Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke during the final minutes of the game secured a vital win for the Villans and dragged Stoke into the relegation mixStoke City succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa during a feisty encounter at the bottom of the Premier League which pulled the Potters into the relegation dogfight.
The Villans took an early lead through Gabriel Agbonlahor - his third goal in four games and a strike that equals Dwight Yorke’s record of 60 goals for the club in the Premier League.
Michael Kightley looked set to give Tony Pulis' side a valuable point with his equaliser ten minutes from the end, but a quick-fire double from Matthew Lowton and Christian Benteke gave the visitors a priceless victory to drag Stoke into the relegation mix.
Paul Lambert made two changes to the side that lost at home to Liverpool last week with Fabian Delph and Jordan Bowery introduced in a changed formation, whilst the return of Matthew Etherington from a back injury offered width in midfield for the home side.
Villa, who entered the crucial fixture having never claimed victory at the Britannia Stadium in the Premier League, started the game on the back foot when an apparent handball from Nathan Baker inside the opening minutes was turned down by referee Mark Clattenburg.
Yet despite a positive start for the Potters, it was Aston Villa who opened the scoring on nine minutes with their first attempt on goal, with Agbonlahor calmly slotting the ball past Asmir Begovic inside the six-yard box at the second time of asking.
The early goal saw the control of possession switch into the hands of the visitors who soon settled into a confidence-fuelled rhythm, with Andreas Weimann coming closest to doubling the lead on the half-hour mark – his shot tipped onto the post after a fine fingertip save from Begovic.
The Stoke goalkeeper was caught in controversy minutes later when Agbonlahor fell to the ground after a challenge inside the penalty area, however the striker was instead handed a booking for simulation.
The home side – who were booed off the pitch at half-time – made a second-half change with Kightly coming on for Etherington, yet Pulis’ side started the second period in much of the same vein when Bowery easily rolled the Stoke defence only to see his shot saved by the Potters keeper.
Second-half substitute Cameron Jerome provided a much-needed injection of enthusiasm in attack but the side with the lowest goal tally in the division failed to draw a meaningful save from Brad Guzan in the away goal.
Yet, with just ten minutes remaining, Stoke's fortunes seemed to turn when Kightly levelled the scores from inside the penalty area after a strong period of possession for the home side.
Stoke looked set to hold on for a vital point in their bid for Premier League survival until a stunning long-range strike from Lowton restored the Villans' lead in the 87th minute.
Shell-shocked by the late goal, the Potters conceded a third goal almost immediately, as Benteke poked the ball past Robert Huth on the halfway line before racing towards goal and slotting past Begovic. The dramatic late strikes pulled Lambert's side out of the relegation zone and piled the misery on Stoke.