By BBC Sport
Nick Powell scored the only goal of the game as Stoke City beat previously unbeaten Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion.
It looked like being one of those nights in the Potteries when Michael O’Neill’s men outplayed the visitors but could not find a way through.
Jacob Brown hit the post in the first half, then Mario Vrancic hit the bar in the second, before Sam Johnstone twice made great saves in quick succession from Sam Surridge, the second of them from the penalty spot after the Albion keeper had brought down the striker.
But on 79 minutes the Potters finally created one piece of real magic for their deserved winner on a night when Albion boss Valerien Ismael admitted that Stoke were the best side they have faced so far this season.
Tommy Smith latched on to a mis-hit pass from Conor Townsend to float a chipped ball through the inside-right channel – and Powell ran on to lift a perfectly weighted lob over the marooned Johnstone.
Stoke climb to third on the back of their best performance of the season in front of their biggest crowd of the season, 22,703, although that was swelled by the noisy 2,886 travelling Albion fans who made such an occasion of it.
The Potters eventually won it largely thanks to another superb performance from Powell, who, at 27, now looks to be a real class act compared to the teenage hopeful who Manchester United risked £3m on more than nine years ago.
It was Powell who created Stoke’s first great chance when he put Brown clean through, only to see his team-mate outfox keeper Johnstone but also find the base of the post. Seconds later, fit-again Joe Allen fizzed a right-foot follow-up just wide.
And, although Albion’s Callum Robinson had a powerful left-foot volley straight at home keeper Adam Davies, he was also involved in an incident at the other end.
Stoke thought they had scored when Darnell Furlong, trying to clear the danger back to his keeper, arced a low diving header into the corner. But referee Tim Robinson had already blown his whistle for a supposed foul on Robinson, who appeared to have gone very easily to ground, earning a loud, sustained chorus of booing.
Summer signing Vrancic was next to go close after the break when he floated a left-foot free-kick over Johnstone, which bounced back off the bar.
From Powell’s low second-half cross, the Albion keeper then denied Surridge from close range – before there came an even better chance.
Semi Ajayi cleared a goal-bound shot almost from off the line and, in the melee that followed, Surridge was adjudged to have been brought down by Johnstone.
The Albion keeper dived to his right to save Surridge’s poorly struck penalty kick with his feet. But it was Stoke who had the last laugh as Powell’s winner rubberstamped their promotion credentials, lifting them within a point of top spot going into the international break.
Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill told BBC Radio Stoke:
“It’s a happy dressing room and we deserved to win but we may have made it harder work then necessary with all the missed chances.
“I felt we dealt with everything they threw at us. I didn’t feel were going to lose a goal. But Nick Powell pops up with that bit of quality again.
“And it was a great assist from Tommy Smith too. He’s enjoying playing as a wing-back and is really offering us something in an attacking sense.
“We have to keep the fans coming back. Our home form has been excellent and at times the place was rocking. We have won five and drawn one here – and the fans are a big part of that.”
West Brom boss Valerien Ismael told BBC Radio WM:
“I don’t know if it was tiredness but we just weren’t good enough.
“Stoke are the best team we have played so far and they deserved to win.
“We made too many mistakes and we have to learn from it.
“Alex Mowatt has a foot injury that we have to check on.”