STOKE CITY struck two late goals to claim a hard-fought victory over Europa League rivals Fulham to lift them to seventh spot in the Barclays Premier League table.
Republic of Ireland international Jon Walters was in the right place at the right time to calmly slot home a close range effort in the 77th minute to break the deadlock and then Rory Delap popped up to head home a Matthew Etherington free kick three minutes from time.
It was a case of their persistence paying off right at the end after they had created a number of half chances and had seen Delap hit the post with a chip.
Both goals stemmed from free kicks, Peter Crouch heading down the first for Etherington's shot into a crowded to be turned in by the ever alert Walters.
Then, Delap timed his run to perfection to plant a close range header past Mark Schwarzer when he was picked out by a pinpoint delivery from Etherington.
Ironically enough, Fulham's best chance of the match saw John Arne Riise rattle the bar with a thunderous free kick moments before City went in front.
Pulis was boosted by the fact that several players who had been injury concerns in the lead-up to the game were passed fit, most notably Etherington whose hamstring problem had responded to the sugar injection he had in his back.
Jones and Diao were named on the substitutes bench, but Woodgate and Palacios did not feature at all in the Potters' squad.
On a sunlit afternoon with a slight chill in the air, there was little to warm the supporters in the opening exchanges, although there was a scare for City when a left wing corner whipped in by Murphy flashed across goal.
Crouch was flagged offside when he peeled away at the far post to get his head to a deep cross from Wilkinson sent over from the right hand side after the defender had linked up well with Pennant to create the opportunity.
Fulham had plenty of possession without really threatening much, but the Potters worked a short free kick well to open up a shooting chance for Wilkinson from the tightest of angles, but his effort flashed into the sidenetting.
Wilson produced a timely interception to prevent Zamora latching onto a pass threaded into his path after Dembele had made room for himself and had spotted the run being made by the England striker on the edge of the box.
Some sloppy play by the Potters was almost punished when Riise seized upon a loose ball but lifted his shot high over the bar.
Midway through the half, City had an excellent opportunity to go in front when Pennant swung over a cross from the right and it fell to Crouch at the far post who mishit his attempted volley which failed to trouble Schwarzer.
Crouch then had another opportunity charged down when the ball broke to him twelve yards out after Wilson had hammered a free kick into the Fulham wall and it deflected through to City's club record signing.
Dembele, who had picked up a serious ankle injury on his last visit to the Britannia Stadium, suffered more misery when he was forced to limp off with a foot injury.
Etherington played a neat one-two with Walters to fashion an opening on the edge of the box the final shot with his weaker right foot was a tame one.
There was another anxious moment when Baird, hero of Fulham's win at the Britannia Stadium last season, turned a cross from the right and Zamora flashed a glancing header wide of the far post with Begovic scurrying across his line.
City should have gone in front right on the stroke of half time when Pennant burst forward in a more central position and exchanged passes with Crouch, but when he had a clear sight of goal, he dragged his shot past the far post.
The early stages of the second half were not much of an improvement as both sides showed plenty of honest endeavour, but all too often they lacked the quality with their final ball at the crucial point of an attack.
There were a number of occasions when the ball didn't fall kindly for the Potters inside the box when they were threatening.
That was the case when Delap launched a long throw in to the edge of the six yard box and with Schwarzer in all kinds of trouble, Crouch and Upson failed to get decisive touches which allowed Fulham to clear the danger.
However, the woodwork denied them the chance to go in front midway through the half when Delap collected a short pass from Whelan, lost the attention of his marker and then his chip clip the outside of the post.
There was more frustration for City from the resulting corner as Etherington's delivery into the box carried through to Upson, but under a challenge from a Fulham defender the ball appeared to hit him and loop over the bar.
City were awarded another free kick 25 yards out for a foul by Murphy on Pennant, but Wilson was a fraction too high with his curling effort.
At the other end, Fulham were also awarded a free kick when Murphy was brought down by Upson and when the ball was slipped to Riise he saw his thunderbolt crash against the bar much to the relief of Begovic.
City broke out of defence quickly and when Pennant was upended again in full flight, the free kick led to the opening goal.
Wilkinson was released down the right and his cross deep to the far post was head back at the far post for Etherington. The winger's shot into a crowded area found Walters calmly applying the finishing touch from close range.
Shawcross produced an important interception when Fulham threatened to hit back immediately as Johnson got himself into a good position, but the Potters then gained the comfort of a two goal cushion three minutes from time.
They were awarded another free kick on the left when Baird upended Etherington and it was the winger's free kick floated into the box which found Delap unmarked at the far post and he planted his header past Schwarzer.