STOKE CITY could not halt Newcastle United's charge towards Champions League qualification as they suffered a comprehensive defeat on Tyneside.
The outcome of the game rarely looked in doubt after Yohan Cabaye and Pappis Cisse struck in the space of four minutes early in the first half to set Alan Pardew's side on their way to a sixth successive victory in the Barclays Premier League.
Cabaye curled home a third Newcastle goal early in the second half and although City created a number of half chances, their return to action after a 12-day break ended in bitter disappointment with a defeat that leaves them in 14th position.
Although the Potters were always likely to have their work cut out to get a result at the Sports Direct Arena, this was a setback to their hopes of finishing in the Premier League's top ten, particularly as their goal difference suffered once again.
Pulis made three changes to the side that had claimed a point in their last outing at Villa Park with fit-again Wilkinson and rested pair Whelan and Crouch being recalled at the expense of Delap, Whitehead and Jones who were all on the bench.
As the game kicked off in sunshine, it was immediately apparent that Wilson was starting at right back with Wilkinson on the left hand side.
This was a tactical move with one-time City target Ba operating down the left and the pace of Ben Arfa likely to cause problems on the other flank.
Nevertheless, Ba drifted into a more central position and found the space to try his luck from long range, but his attempt at goal was far too high.
Wilson played a prominent part in the first threat posed by the Potters when he ventured forward and although Walters had his shot charged down, the ball broke for Etherington with the room to fire a shot just inches over the bar.
City then carved out an excellent opportunity when Wilson swung a long ball to the edge of the box where Crouch rose to flick it on, leaving Walters in the clear on the edge of the box but he got his attempted volley all wrong and it flew wide.
They were made to pay for that miss moments later when Newcastle went in front to spoil all the good work that had been done in the opening stages.
Having had no luck on the right flank, Ben Arfa switched to the left where he outstripped Wilson to whip over a cross to the far post. Cisse saw his close range header bounce down off the underside of the bar and Cabaye was there to finish it off.
Two minutes later and the roles were reversed as Cabaye turned provider with an incisive pass which picked out Cisse making his run across City's back four before sliding his shot beyond the reach of Begovic and in at the far post.
After that double blow, the Potters got the chance to hit back swiftly when Shotton's long throw-in fell to Whelan on the edge of the box, but the midfielder attempted to strike it first time on the volley and sliced it well wide of Krul's goal.
By now, the weather had turned as gloomy as City's situation with heavy rain falling, but it couldn't dampen Newcastle's fire as another menacing from Ben Arfa presented the opportunity for Cabaye to unleash a long range shot which was too high.
City made their first change of the afternoon on the half hour when Wilkinson was replaced by Whitehead which meant a reshuffle.
Wilson reverted to left back, while Shotton dropped back into a defensive role on the right with Walters operating in front of him.
Although Newcastle weren't creating many chances, they did look like scoring every time they got in the final third of the pitch, a fact which was underlined in the closing stages of the half when Santon forced a fine save out of Begovic diving to his right.
The first half finished with City earning a corner which presented a glimmer of hope when Shawcross flicked on Etherington's delivery to the near post but it carried just beyond the reach of the incoming Crouch at the far post much to their frustration.
Newcastle went close to stretching their lead immediately after the restart when Simpson's deep ball into the box was chested down by Cisse, but him bearing down on goal, Begovic managed to block his effort as the two players collided.
The home side thought they had scored in the 53rd minute when Cisse's shot from the edge of the box slipped from the grasp of Begovic and Ba nipped in to apply the finishing touch only for the assistant referee's flag to rule him offside.
The third goal did come for Newcastle three minutes later, however, when Ben Arfa and Ba tried to find the room to get in a shot on the edge of the box, but when it broke to Cabaye, he instinctively curled his shot beyond the diving Begovic.
That was the last of the action for Cabaye as he was replaced by Perch, who was soon in the thick of things when he blocked a shot from Crouch at the far post after Huth had twisted to head on a corner sent over from the left by Whelan.
There was another worrying moment for the Potters at the other end when Ben Arfa swung a corner over from the right and Coloccini slipped the attention of his marker, but planted his close range header the wrong side of the post.
As the game moved into the closing stages, City had a chance to pull at least one goal back when Whitehead threaded a pass through to Walters who peeled off his marker on a run at goal, but lifted his shot over the bar from inside the box.
Newcastle were then only denied a fourth goal by a stunning save by Begovic who tipped over a thunderous drive from Tiote from 25 yards and the 'keeper had to be at his best to deny the midfielder from the resulting corner.
The Potters huffed and puffed as they searched for a late consolation goal, but they were further frustrated as both Crouch and Huth failed to make contact with a Whelan set-piece when both had the goal at their mercy.