The former Leeds midfielder netted in the first half to prevent the Canaries from slipping to their third successive defeat, relieving the pressure on the club's 54-year-old coach.
The 25-year-old midfielder netted the only goal of the game, latching onto Anthony Pilkington's layoff and rifling a shot past Asmir Begovic from the edge of the area, with the Potters unable to mount a response.
Both sides headed into Sunday's game without a win in their previous two top-flight contests, with Norwich boss Chris Hughton under pressure following his side's home defeat to Aston Villa last weekend.
Potters boss Mark Hughes selected the same side that slipped to a 3-1 defeat at Arsenal last time out, while opposite number Hughton elected to ring the changes.
Ryan Bennett replaced the injured Sebastien Bassong in the center of defense, while Martin Olsson, Alexander Tettey and Pilkington came in for Javier Garrido, Nathan Redmond and Johan Elmander respectively.
Norwich started quickly, and should have taken the lead after nine minutes, Bennett crashing a strike against the crossbar after meeting Olsson's corner.
The visitors dictated the game from midfield throughout the first half, but Stoke was solid in defense and did not allow Hughton's men much in the way of attacking openings.
It took Stoke over half an hour to create its first goalscoring opportunity, Austrian attacker Marko Arnautovic lashing over from the edge of the area.
However, less than a minute later, Norwich took the lead its play deserved, Howson finding space in midfield before firing home with a swerving low effort that deceived a despairing Begovic.
Jermaine Pennant replaced Jonathan Walters at the interval as Stoke searched for a way back into the game, and the home side was aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty after Kenwyne Jones was pulled back in the area by Leroy Fer.
Still, it was Norwich which continued to create the better opportunities, with Pilkington firing wide with a speculative effort from range before Robert Snodgrass curled a left-footed effort over the bar.
Jones went close for Stoke as the Trinidad and Tobago international began to cause the Norwich back line problems but, despite his best efforts, Hughes' side was unable to truly threaten John Ruddy's goal.
The game became more open in the closing stages as Steven N'Zonzi tested Ruddy from distance, before Snodgrass forced Begovic into a fine save with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
Howson's strike was to be enough, however, as Norwich comfortably held on to ensure a much-needed victory that sees the team leapfrog the Potters in the Premier League table.