Aston Villa fell to their 17th league defeat of the season against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
Remi Garde’s side lacked quality for long spells while Stoke huffed and puffed themselves before a quick-fire double from Marko Arnautovic settled matters shortly after half time.
Arnautovic netted from the penalty spot before bundling in after good play from Xherdan Shaqiri and while Leandro Bacuna pulled one back, Villa didn’t do enough to claim a point.
The first half was a real stalemate with both sides struggling to find any quality in the final third, although Garde would have been the happier manager going in scoreless at the break.
The closest Stoke came was when Ibrahim Afellay’s cross from the right took a heavy deflection off Jores Okore and forced Mark Bunn into a smart save.
Shortly after the break and it was Shaqiri that engineered Stoke’s breakthrough. His clever pass found Phil Bardsley in the box and Ashley Westwood brought down the Stoke man leaving Kevin Friend with little option but to point to the spot.
Arnautovic made no mistake from 12 yards, drilling the ball past Bunn to give Mark Hughes’ side the lead.
Within five minutes, Arnautovic had marked his 100th Stoke appearance with a second goal.
Shaqiri again had a hand in the goal as his left-wing cross found Arnautovic in the box. His initial headed attempt rather looped up into the air but the Austrian reacted faster than the two Villa defenders attending and he was able to chest the ball into the back of the net from close range.
By now, the visitors were visibly rocking and Garde would have been forgiven for fearing another heavy defeat as the game bore genuine resemblance to the 6-0 home loss to Liverpool last time out.
Villa clung on and, against the odds, they cut the deficit in half 11 minutes from the end.
Sub Rudy Gestede appeared to send the ball into Bacuna’s path with his hand but the midfielder stayed composed when through on goal and beat Jack Butland.
Try as they might, Villa couldn’t find another goal and the three points lifted Stoke up into eighth place.