Stoke City secured a first win in four as they beat Luton Town 3-0 at the Bet365 Stadium to move up to 21st in the Sky Bet Championship.
A Joe Allen double followed James McLean's 35th-minute opener to move the Potters to two points from safety as they leap-frogged Wigan Athletic, whilst leaving Luton just three points above the drop-zone themselves.
Story of the match
The hosts had made three changes from their 2-1 defeat away at Hull City three days earlier. Talismanic club captain Ryan Shawcross made his first appearance of the season after suffering a broken leg in pre-season, and he partnered Liam Lindsay in the centre of defence, the pair preferred to Danny Batth and Bruno Martins Indi - the combination used at the KCOM Stadium. Jordan Cousins was also selected ahead of Ryan Woods in midfield.
As for the visitors they made just one alteration, with captain Alan Sheehan taking the place of Daniel Potts at left-back.
The game began with both sides looking to play the ball around neatly, aiming to play through the opposing defence with some slick passing and positional rotation.
The closest either side came in the opening half an hour was in the eighth minute, when an in-swinging McLean corner found its way to Shawcross at the back post six-yards out. With the goal gaping, the experienced defender could only bundle his effort onto the crossbar - via the thigh of his marker - before eventually seeing it bounce down and harmlessly into the arms of goalkeeper James Shea.
That would be the last action for him, however, as he seemingly over-stretched in a challenge on the halfway line and damaged his groin, leading to him being withdrawn only 15 minutes into his much-awaited return.
There were appeals for a Hatters penalty soon after after a loose Allen pass was seized upon by Harry Cornick. With the forward advancing into the penalty area, he went down under the challenge of Batth - on for Shawcross - although their calls were rejected by the referee, with the defender appearing to win the ball.
It was Batth again to the rescue eight minutes later, as a well-worked Luton move culminated in the ball finding its way to the unmarked Ryan Tunnicliffe on the left-hand side. As the midfielder bore down on goal, the defender timed his challenge perfectly to block the attempted shot behind for a corner.
The home crowd were becoming increasingly - and vocally - impatient and frustrated at what they perceived as negative decisions by the players, be it a backwards pass or neglecting to cross.
However, that negativity was soon washed away.
Possession was surrendered by Town's Andrew Shinnie midway into his own half, and capitalised upon by a combination of Allen and Sam Vokes. Vokes played the ball into the path of McLean, and after taking a touch to steady himself, the Irishman fired low past Shea to give his side the lead.
This strike galvanised players and fans alike, and Sam Clucas came close to doubling the score moments later with a fierce strike from 25 yards, but Shea was able to get down to his right to parry around the post.
The same pair did battle again soon after, but with Clucas in a near-identical spot to where McLean struck from, Shea was this time able to push Clucas' drive behind. The goalkeeper was then indebted to the recovering Sheehan shortly before the break, as the defender cleared Vokes' shot off the line after the stopper had been rounded by the Welshman.
There was nothing he could do though as the Potters deservedly doubled their advantage in first-half stoppage time.
McLean's jinking run on the left saw the ball crossed into the box and straight onto the head of the midfielder. He arrived untracked to nod home from six yards, and make their half-time team talk that bit sweeter.
Hatters boss Graeme Jones made two changes at the break in the hope of sparking his team into life; it is fair to say that one of these switches had the opposite effect.
Glen Rea and George Moncur were introduced in place of Shinnie and Luke Berry respectively, but for Rea it was an opening five minutes to forget.
His first touch saw him clatter into Vokes and see himself booked, before his second was straight to Allen - in the same area his teammate Shinnie had done in the first half.
Sure enough, the outcome was identical, with Allen advancing to the edge of the 18-yard box before cooly stroking, almost passing the ball into Shea's bottom-left corner to make it 3-0 and put the hosts into cruise control.
It was a subdued affair from then on, with City content to sit on their lead and ensure they bagged the three points.
Tom Ince came close to bagging a fourth, but Shea again did well to push his low driven effort from 20 yards behind after he had run at the heart of their retreating defence.
Takeaways from the match
The crowd can be Stoke's twelfth man
In their halcyon days in the top tier, particularly in their early years in the division, Stoke's crowd was famed for its volatility and hostility towards opponents. Yet within the run they are currently within, the supporters are, understandably, beginning to get on the players' backs.
The impact of their support was perfectly highlighted from before and after their goal: when the noise changed to being behind their players, they noticeably responded.
If the team can give them something to shout about and get behind, the passion of the City fans can really be a helping hand towards survival.
Luton must stop shipping sloppy goals
Having achieved back-to-back promotions, those connected with Luton always knew that this campaign would be a fiercely difficult one.
Their task of survival would be hard enough as it is, but to concede the type of goals they did tonight was criminal. In such a tough and unforgiving league they cannot afford to give opponents the helping hand - or hands - as they did here. If they do not learn this lesson, an immediate return to League One will beckon.
Potters' premier players must come to the fore
With the predicament they are in, Stoke must be able to rely on their senior men to lead by example and drag them out of this current mess.
The likes of Allen, Vokes, Shawcross and Ince to name but a few have played numerous games at a higher level, and it is them that must be at the front of their fight to survive.
There is no doubting the technical ability of these players - it is their mentality that will be questioned from now on.
Player of the match - Joe Allen
The experienced Welshman showed all of his nous and ability here, arriving late from midfield to evade his marker for his first goal, whilst showing a clear head to slot home the third.
Having taken the armband after Shawcross' removal, it was a real captain's display - something that will be needed every game if they wish to stay up.