STOKE CITY gained a much-needed shot in the arm by comfortably sweeping aside struggling Blackburn Rovers in the live televised match at the Britannia Stadium.
Midfield pair Rory Delap and Glenn Whelan set them on the way to their first Barclays Premier League victory in five matches and England striker Peter Crouch rounded it off with an excellent finish to add Blackburn's woes near the bottom of the table.
Although Ruben Rochina pulled a goal back in the closing stages, it was no more than a consolation effort as City gained a welcome win that lifted them back into the top half of the Premier League before the remainder of the Saturday games got underway.
Delap headed the Potters in front from a Jermaine Pennant free kick in the first half and then Whelan added a second shortly after the break when his shot from the edge of the box was deflected past Paul Robinson by a Rovers defender.
City were then given a three-goal cushion when Crouch latched onto a ball forward from Robinson and lashed his left foot shot past Robinson for his fifth goal since he made a club record move from Tottenham Hotspur at the end of August.
Pulis made two changes to the side beaten by Queens Park Rangers seven days earlier as the fit-again Wilson and Republic of Ireland colleague Whelan were both recalled at the expense of Higginbotham and Whitehead.
In the blustery conditions, City had an immediate chance to exert pressure on the visitors defence and Crouch headed wide from a Delap throw-in, before a corner sent over by Etherington was headed wide by Shawcross.
It was perhaps not surprising in the circumstances that there was little in the way of goalmouth action after that early flurry, with both sides low in confidence and there were a number of mis-placed passes and nervous defending.
The first real threat from Rovers came when Hoilett burst down the left hand side and exchanged passes with Yakubu before trying his luck from the edge of the box but Huth had read the situation well and blocked the effort.
A long throw-in delivered by Delap carried to the far post where Crouch got his head to it and then challenged for the second ball, but his attempt to turn it back across goal and put Rovers under more pressure was thwarted.
After a quiet period in which neither goalkeeper had much to do, the Potters went in front in the 28th minute from a set-piece.
They were awarded a free kick for a foul on Crouch and when Pennant whipped it over, Delap nipped to glance his header past Robinson.
Despite that boost, City still struggled to really impose any authority on the game, although Pennant produced a penetrating run down the right and lifted over a cross to the far post for Crouch, but although the striker managed to get his head, his subsequent attempt to hook it back across goal was charged down by the Rovers defence.
Crouch and Pennant were then involved in another promising move that saw the winger collect a pass from the England man, who then made good ground again to the far post but planted his header past the post.
The half finished with Blackburn carving out a couple of rare chances for themselves as Pennant's foul on Givet earned them a free kick from which Pedersen fired his shot into the wall and then the Norwegian's deep corner was met by a looping header from Hanley, but Whelan was on the line to clear the ball to safety.
Blackburn had an immediate opportunity to draw level after the break when Rochina had the skill and composure to work his way into a menacing position inside the box and then his cheeky backheel almost ran for Formica.
Fortunately though, City managed to scramble the ball clear but the visitors sensed the chance to get back into the game, causing more problems from a ball launched into the box which swirled around in the strong wind.
There was a lighthearted pause in the action after a number of bin liners had blown onto the pitch, leading to the chant 'what a load of rubbish'.
A miscued clearance by Huth set Blackburn on their way again as Hoilett got down the left and hoisted his cross to the far post where Rochina met it on the volley, but the Potters were relieved to see it flash wide of the target.
City then had a glorious chance to go further in front when Delap linked up well with Etherington whose left wing cross found Huth rising in the middle and a goal seemed inevitable, but he somehow planted his header past the post.
They did, however, get that all-important second goal in their next attack and once again it was Etherington who was at the heart of the move, sending over a low cross after a penetrating run past Givet and the covering Rochina.
The ball fell to Walters inside the box whose neat lay-off found Whelan and his shot deflected off a Rovers defender into the roof of the net.
Etherington, City's man-of-the-match against QPR, showed more encouraging signs of being back to his best although another excellent run down the left ended with him over-running the ball at the crucial moment with Lowe struggling.
Nevertheless, the Britannia Stadium breathed a huge sigh of relief in the 72nd minute when Wilson's ball forward ran for Crouch and he calmly strode forward before lashing his left foot shot under Robinson to provide a three-goal cushion.
There was a more confident look about City's play and that was emphasised by a move which saw Walters go desperately close to a fourth.
The former Blackburn man played a part in the build-up and after he had exchanged passes with Crouch, he struck a powerful shot from the right hand side of the box which beat the diving Robinson but flashed past the far post.
Pulis took the opportunity to make a couple of changes as Whitehead and Jones were introduced in place of Pennant and Crouch.
With the crowd sensing that City could get more goals, their bid to keep a clean sheet was dashed with five minutes of the game remaining.
Hoilett played the ball up to N'Zonzi and his lay-off found Rochina cutting inside to unleash a left foot shot which flew past the diving Sorensen.
With referee Halsey only adding on two minutes of injury time, it proved to be only a minor setback as City celebrated their first League win since mid-October.