Stoke’s long wait for a win went on after they let a first-half lead slip before slumping to a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff.
Michael O’Neill’s side have not won since they beat Swansea 3-0 on February 8 and defeat extended their winless run to nine games, while the home side made it 10 points in their last four.
Cardiff created more chances in the early stages and forced Jack Bonham in the Stoke goal to move quickly to palm away a cross from Cody Drameh after seven minutes.
Bonham then had to be even more decisive in the 21st minute when Joel Bagan got free eight yards out in front of goal and hammered in a shot that the Stoke keeper tipped over the bar.
To underline how significant a save that was, two minutes later the visitors took the lead.
Perry Ng gave away the ball on the right edge of his area and two passes later Lewis Baker was able to steady himself and fire a 25-yard shot through a crowd of players to beat Alex Smithies in the home goal.
That goal was largely against the run of play and drew an immediate response out of the home side, with Mark Harris latching onto a through ball on the edge of the area but missing the target.
Tommy Doyle then levelled things up in the 39th minute as he finished off a great move down the left flank. Harris made the initial running and Bagan flicked on to Doyle who finished with his left foot.
That was his second goal since arriving from Manchester City in January and another loanee, Jordan Hugill, notched his third two minutes before the break.
Drameh lost control of the ball 30 yards out but joined Hugill in hunting down the Stoke defenders. Taylor Harwood-Bellis was then caught in possession by Drameh on the edge of his area and Hugill banged in his side’s second goal of the night.
Stoke came out more positively in the second half as they looked to get back on level terms and had a strong period of pressure in the 69th minute, forcing Smithies into two saves from a string of corners.
The introduction of Mario Vrancic gave the Stoke midfield a considerable boost and he also forced Smithies into a save 10 minutes from time.
What the managers said…
Cardiff’s Steve Morison: “When we started this whole process, we were in the bottom three and they were in the play-offs. We are now level with each other on points. I’m as proud as punch. It has been a really tough seven weeks but it ended so well and I’m really pleased. We didn’t deserve to be 1-0 down but in the end we got our rewards. They gambled in the second half and committed more men forward and our defenders had to defend for their lives.
“That put us under pressure but I still think we had the better chances in the second half. I thought there were some all-round excellent performances. Anyone who wants to question the players’ attitude or application, that kind of performance puts that completely to bed.”
Stoke’s Michael O’Neill: “We didn’t play well enough and didn’t deserve to take anything from the game, despite going ahead with a good goal. We were a bit fragile. You have to get to half-time and defend your lead and we didn’t do that. We were 1-0 up with six minutes to play in the first half and we went in behind – that epitomises where we are at the moment. Straight balls down the pitch, there wasn’t any real guile about it but the pace of Jordan Hugill and Mark Harris caused us problems.
“We had a lot of the ball but our quality in the final third was poor. We were suspect and we aren’t in the play-off places anymore because we’re not good enough. We tried to shuffle the pack in January, which we felt would make us better, but ultimately it hasn’t. I can’t sit here and defend things and say we shouldn’t be in this position.
“We definitely should have more points than we have but we can’t keep asking the same questions week after week. We can’t keep coming away and saying we didn’t get what we deserved. We didn’t deserve anything tonight.”