Glenn Roeder's reborn Canaries continued to shrug off the tag of the worst team in the Championship this afternoon – albeit if they were on the wrong end of a last-gasp 2-1 defeat.
Handed his start, Darren Huckerby took just five minutes to put the Canaries ahead. And though the Potters levelled 30 seconds after the restart from a Leon Cort header, Norwich looked to be heading home to Norfolk with another big point – their seventh of the week.
However, an 89th minute set-play finally proved their undoing as Richard Cresswell pounced on an untidy scrap in the City six-yard box to smash the ball home.
It was rough justice on the visitors after the ageless Dion Dublin had delivered a master class in centre-forward play before the break – just as keeper David Marshall rifled through his top drawer for three wonderful saves.
Those three points at Blackpool make the world of difference on afternoons like this and the Canaries can now head into two back-to-back home games with spirit and pride restored.
Tactically and medically, Roeder's prospects of naming an unchanged line-up for the third straight occasion went out of the window sometime on Friday morning as the new City chief opted to depart from his normal 4-4-2 formation for the first time in his managerial reign.
Hence, Jamie Cureton found himself on the bench as Dublin offered a lone point of attack in a re-worked 4-5-1 formation. As events would soon prove, he wasn't on his own for long.
If that was Roeder's one, intended tactical switch, Luke Chadwick's chronic shoulder trouble might have contributed to his non-appearance; a morning migraine at the team hotel was the reason for Jon Otsemobor's first no-show of the season. A hasty re-shuffle found Gary Doherty filling that right-back berth. This time last year and the Republic of Ireland international found himself at centre-midfield in one of Peter Grant's more mysterious tactical switches. City, of course, lost 5-0 that day.
No Chadwick, therefore saw Lee Croft start away on the right; Huckerby headed away to the left as Matty Pattison switched inside and gave the returning Darel Russell and Mark Fotheringham that little bit extra bite against Rory Delap and Potters skipper John Eustace.
It took just five minutes for Roeder's tactical tinkering to reap its rewards in the shape of the game's opening goal for Huckerby.
It was all simple stuff as Dublin met a deep punt forward with the perfect, cushioned header on into Huckerby's path. For by then, the 32-year-old has eased himself off his left-hand touchline and in, goalside of Cort.
With the strength of mind and body to hold the Potters' centre-half at bay as he moved into the Stoke box, so the City favourite calmly took aim and – with his left foot – smashed the ball between Steve Simonsen and his right-hand upright.
Liam Lawrence might have wriggled clear in the game's opening minute and angled a low cross right through an empty six-yard box, but given Norwich's circumstances it was about as perfect a start as Roeder could have wished for.
David Marshall kept the good feeling flowing with a fabulous save low to his right in the tenth minute as the giant Mamady Sidibe rose highest amongst a clutch of yellow shirts to guide a Cresswell cross down and away from the City keeper. Or so he thought.
In the meantime Dublin was having a ball; dragging Cort this way and that as he won every early header going. Russell was clearly the one detailed to give the 38-year-old some close support.
Martin Taylor again proved his worth in the 22nd minute with a fabulous covering header to meet a Lawrence free-kick. Arriving no more than a yard ahead of the menacing Sidibe, Taylor's header arced just beyond the far post for a corner. Without it and Norwich's early advantage would have slipped from their hands – as Messrs Shackell and Dublin were swift to acknowledge.
Stoke, as was to be expected, weren't taking that early upset lying down. In the 'Land of the Giants' something stirred.
Certainly Pulis didn't appear amused as to what he was seeing – off went right-back Stephen Wright on the half-hour mark; on went Andy Wilkinson in a bid to snap at Huckerby's ankles. Two minutes later and he was a spectator as Camara sailed beyond him and whipped a decent cross in from the left that Dublin smashed a yard wide of that right upright.
At the other end, Marshall had to scramble desperately across his goal to claw the ball back off the line after a deflected Sidibe effort appeared to be squeezing in. In between and Doherty had twice justified his inclusion with big, alert clearances coming in off that right-back berth. He could do little but watch as Ricardo Fuller span off Shackell two minutes before the break only to drive just over.
But City got there, to the break, 1-0 up. And that most people would take.
If the message at the break was to keep it tight for the first 15 as the Potters launched their expected aerial assault, then Roeder would have been left less than amused as Stoke equalised within 30 seconds of the restart. Taylor was adjudged to have fouled Sidibe. Lawrence again floated the free-kick high towards the back post where an unmarked Leon Cort stole in to direct a downward header inside Marshall's left-hand post. Sucker punch time.
Roeder hadn't even reached his technical area. He was on the edge of it seconds later.
Tails up, crowd roaring, Norwich had to survive a big handball appeal in the 52nd minute as Doherty charged down a Fuller shot. The Britannia faithful were sniffing some blood as the Canaries' resolve started to be fully tested.
Cue Roeder giving Pulis something else to think about as 18-year-old Ched Evans replaced Pattison and Norwich went back to 4-4-2. Russell and Fotheringham would have their work cut out in the next 40 minutes.
In fairness, the Canaries were happy to trade blows in a game that was getting more and more stretched by the minute. Dublin would alomst hook home a Huckerby cross; Evans would produce a glorious flick over Ryan Shawcross' head before blazing just over. At the other end, Marshall would somehow grab the ball off Rory Delap's forehead as he threatened.
You sensed at least one more goal – with no guarantees at which end it would fall.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen: Wright (Wilkinson, 31 mins), Pugh, Shawcross, Cort; Lawrence, Eustace, Delap, Cresswell; Sidibe (Parkin, 81 mins), Fuller. Subs (not used): Hoult, Zakuani, Phillips.
Norwich City (4-5-1): Marshall; Doherty, Camara, Taylor, Shackell; Croft (Cureton, 78 mins), Pattison (Evans, 55 mins), Russell, Fotheringham, Huckerby; Dublin. Subs (not used) Arnold, Smith, Brown, Evans.
Man of the Match: Dion Dublin.
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