STOKE CITY were forced to settle for a share of the spoils in the Staffordshire derby with Wolverhampton Wanderers after a second half fightback saw the visitors claw their way back from two goals down.
George Elekobi's own goal in the 17th minute put the Potters in the driving seat before Matthew Etherington's first League goal for the Club right on the stroke of half time doubled their advantage.
However, Craddock halved the deficit within two minutes of the restart before he completed the comeback with a glancing header just after the hour mark, and denied the Potters what would have been a third successive league victory.
As expected Tony Pulis made wholesale changes to the starting line up ahead of the game after opting to start his first team fringe players in the Carling Cup defeat at Portsmouth on Tuesday. In fact, the only player to feature in both games was Glenn Whelan, who came in to the heart of midfield at the expense of Salif Diao, who missed out through injury.
Thomas Sorensen returned in goal after overcoming a stomach virus, whilst the rest of the team was unchanged from the 1-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. Mamady Sidibe, who earlier this week returned from a knee injury, was named on the substitute's bench with David Kitson the man missing out.
- Dean Whitehead chases down former Potter Karl Henry -
The visitors included former City stars Chris Iwelumo, Karl Henry and Jody Craddock in their starting line up as they looked to build on their well earned draw with Aston Villa seven days ago. It was in fact the visitors who had the first effort of the match through Michael Kightly in the 3rd minute, but his strike from 20-yards was comfortably saved by Sorensen. A minute later though the Potters should have been ahead. Matthew Etherington's in-swinging corner was headed goalwards by the unmarked Danny Collins but the ball was scrambled off the line by a combination of good fortune and good defending.
City continued to push forward and dominate the early proceedings and their efforts were rewarded in the 17th minute when the in-form Beattie forced Wolves defender Elekobi into firing the ball into his own net after man of the match Etherington whipped across a tantalising ball.
Ten minutes later things could have gotten even better for the hosts as Etherington's pin-point ball through the Wolves backline was latched on to by Fuller, but he took one touch too many and allowed the visitors the chance to clear their lines.
Another surge into the Wolves penalty area moments later resulted in Beattie blazing an effort over the bar from 8-yards, before full-back Andy Wilkinson crashed an effort over the bar from long range and reacting quickest to a poor clearance from Craddock.
Pulis' side showed no signs of holding back as they went in search of a second goal, and it very nearly came just after the half hour mark when Beattie rose above Berra and headed goalwards, only for Wales number one Hennessey to respond with an outstanding save.
A rare Wolves attack brought the best out of Abdoulaye Faye as he did well to block Kevin Doyle's strike from close range after Iwelumo had flicked Craddock's long punt forward into the path of the former Reading man.
City's patience was rewarded just on the stroke of half time as Etherington deservedly doubled their advantage with a clinically taken volley from the edge of the penalty area, after the visitors had only half cleared Delap's long throw-in.
- Ricky Hatton celebrates with Pottermus at half-time after his success in the crossbar challenge -
Game over… or so you would have thought, but what would happen over the next 45 minutes nobody could have predicted. An inspired half time substitution by McCarthy saw Nenad Milijas come on to replace Segundo Castillo, and it was his free-kick just two minutes in which led to Craddock sweeping home at the back post, despite television replays confirming he was clearly in an offside position.
The Serbian international was at the thick of the action again a minute later, as he fired a free-kick goalwards from an almost identical situation, which Sorensen did well to claw from under the crossbar. The City faithful did their best to guide the team through a sticky period as they made themselves heard, and it looked to have worked as a classic counter attack down the right resulted in Delap driving across a dangerous ball which Beattie was unlucky not to have connected with.
The visitors soon silenced the Potters though as Craddock lost his marker and brilliantly glanced Milijas' corner beyond Denmark international Sorensen into the far corner, sending the 3,000 supporters from Wolves into delirium.
Pulis responded by introducing Sidibe in the 70th minute as he got his first taste of league action in over seven months, with Beattie making way for the Malian international. Turkey captain Tuncay soon followed as did Liam Lawrence, as the Potters boss made one last throw of the dice to secure all three points.
A goal never came though despite the best attempts of skipper Abdoulaye Faye, who headed over from 8-yards after Etherington picked him out with a delightful corner. The visitors had a late chance to steal all three points through Doyle, but he screwed his effort wide of the right hand post from 15-yards.
- Ryan Shawcross tussles for the ball with Kevin Doyle -