Stoke City recovered from a poor start to overwhelm Aston Villa 4-1 on Sunday and take a decisive step towards securing Barclays Premier League safety.
In the build-up to the game at Villa Park, Stoke manager Mark Hughes underlined his side's ambitions to finish as the top team in the Midlands this season, but he must have feared for their chances when Christian Benteke blasted the hosts into a fifth-minute lead following good work by Fabian Delph.
Stoke looked momentarily shell-shocked, but burst into life midway through the first half with two goals in four minutes from Peter Odemwingie and former Villa striker Peter Crouch.
The pair combined on 22 minutes, Odemwingie tucking away his third goal in his last two matches after latching on to his striker partner's header, before Crouch netted when he side-footed home Erik Pieters' pass.
Steven N'Zonzi completed a remarkable first-half turnaround three minutes before the interval, firing home from 18 yards following Leandro Bacuna's error, and Geoff Cameron added gloss to the scoreline in the final minute.
A first away Barclays Premier League victory since the end of August means Stoke climb into the top half above their opponents, 12 points clear of the relegation zone, while for Villa it was a chastening defeat after successive wins over Norwich City and Chelsea.
It all looked to be going to plan for Paul Lambert's Villa side when Benteke gave them a dream start inside five minutes after excellent work by the in-form Delph.
The midfielder, who scored the winner in last weekend's 1-0 victory over Chelsea, turned away from Cameron down the left before finding Benteke, who took a touch and fired high into the net from 10 yards.
Odemwingie went close to levelling in the 20th minute, seeing his effort from the edge of the box deflect on to the roof of the net. Two minutes later, though, the January signing from Cardiff did net the equaliser by getting on the end of Crouch's knock-down before muscling his way through and slotting the ball between the legs of the advancing Brad Guzan.
And Stoke were in front four minutes later, Crouch converting Pieters' low cross after the full-back had got the better of Andreas Weimann on the left-hand side.
All the momentum was with the visitors and they added a third three minutes before the break, N'Zonzi slotting home from the edge of the area after Bacuna's mistake let in Marko Arnautovic.
The second period was less eventful than the first, Odemwingie testing Guzan with a searing drive in the 64th minute.
Stoke kept Villa comfortably at bay before Cameron tucked away Arnautovic's low cross late on after the Austrian had comprehensively beaten the beleaguered Bacuna.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We were second best, that wasn't good enough. We had a really good start, scored a really good goal, but the goals we lost were really, really poor. But take nothing away from Stoke, they deserved to win the game.
"Maybe the Chelsea game took a lot more out of us than I thought but I don't want to make excuses, we were well beaten. You've got to keep learning the game and try to do as well as you can but you can't play like that and expect to win."
Stoke manager Mark Hughes: "We've been waiting some time for an away win but it was worth waiting for. The difference was in other games we've not had that cutting edge and we did and that shows.
"We didn't start brightly but afterwards we showed real personality and real desire to make things happen.
"We're on a good run, confidence is a massive thing in football and we've got loads of it at the moment.
"We can look upwards now and try and achieve things this season, we want to look back on it with pride."
|29 Mar 2014||v Man Utd (A)|
|05 Apr 2014||v Fulham (H)|
|12 Apr 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Southampton (H)|
|26 Apr 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|03 May 2014||v Hull (H)|