A Ryan Shawcross header gave Stoke something to play for but their driven second-half performance was ended in stoppage time by Marouane Fellaini’s sixth goal of the season.

The visitors were aiming to improve on their dismal away record this season that amounted to a mere four points while still waiting for a maiden Premier League victory on the road. But coming into the game unbeaten in their last three matches, including the spirited comeback at Villa Park a fortnight ago, Stoke City were hopeful of securing a positive result at Goodison Park.

The game began well enough for the Potters insofar as time passed without much incident. Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar were the main outlets for Everton but their raids down the left flank failed to create any openings.

Stoke seemed to have succeeded in quietening the home crowd and just as they looked like starting to play some football of their own they suddenly found themselves two goals down.

Jo opened the scoring after 18 minutes when a neat through ball from Tim Cahill sliced open the visitors defence and found the on-loan striker inside goalkeeper. His shot squirmed under the body of Thomas Sorensen and dribbled over the line with the Dane probably thinking that he should have done better.

Within six minutes Everton doubled their lead. A deep cross from Leon Osman picked out Cahill who rose magnificently to power his header towards goal. Sorensen was a match for it but he was again left scratching his head as he could only push the ball into the path of the unmarked Joleon Lescott who tapped home his fifth goal of the season.

Tony Pulis had opted against the usual ploy of stringing five across the midfield and instead partnered James Beattie with Mamady Sidibe in attack. It meant that Stoke lost the battle in the middle of the pitch and forced the strikers to chase futile causes.

Inevitably their most likely looking avenues of getting back into the game appeared to be via set-pieces and the fabled long-throws of Rory Delap. However the delivery was never quite right and Joseph Yobo and Joleon Lescott in the heart of the Everton defence were able to nullify each incursion.

Leon Osman came within a whisker of making it 3-0 after good work from Jo found the slight midfielder in the area. Twisting away from Ryan Shawcross , Osman bought himself a few yards of space and clipped a curling shot towards the top corner only to see the ball bend just the wrong side of the upright.

With Everton having kept four straight clean sheets prior to this match it looked to be a tall order for Stoke to leave Merseyside with anything at all especially as they failed to create a chance of note in the opening 45 minutes.

A readjustment was needed in the Potters ranks but the only change at half-time came from Everton as Louis Saha replaced Tim Cahill in a tactical switch by David Moyes.

Everton appeared to be in cruise control as they controlled possession for the opening few minutes of the second- half until Mamady Sidibe hustled a corner for the visitors on 50 minutes.

Liam Lawrence finally delivered a ball of quality and Ryan Shawcross rose unmarked to head into the far corner to bring Stoke back into a game that had looked beyond them.

Their tails up, Stoke began to play in their opponents half and a another corner caused butterflies in the stomach’s of the Goodison Park faithful, quashed only when Tim Howard claimed the cross at the second attempt.

The complexion of the match had changed completely with the ball now predominantly in the visitors possession and nerves clearly spreading across the Everton team and along the terraces.

On the hour mark there was another Lawrence corner and another great chance for Stoke. This time Danny Higginbotham jumped highest but his header was just beyond the far post and the outstretched boot of Ryan Shawcross.

With Everton deciding that the best form of defence was attack, a lot more space was opening up all around the pitch. The Toffees were determined to score a third goal and put the game finally out of Stoke’s reach and Jo had a chance to do just that but his shot was blocked and bundled out for a corner.

At the other end, Glenn Whelan – looking to replicate his heroics against Aston Villa - let fly from 25 yards and was unlucky to see his shot whistle past Howard’s right-hand post.

There was now acres of space in midfield as both teams chased a goal, enabling runners such as Pienaar and Osman to canter towards the Potters' penalty area almost unopposed. One of these attacks was thwarted only by a stunning reflex save from Sorensen who somehow managed to divert Pienaar’s hot away from goal from point blank range.

Stoke kept going but their quest for a point ended in the first minute of stoppage time as Marouane Fellaini put the game to bed. A deep searching cross from Baines was plucked out of the air by Fellaini who drilled his shot pasty Sorensen via a deflection off Abdoulaye Faye.

Stoke must be wishing their second-half performance had been on show for the full ninety minutes as the game was ultimately lost in the first period. Everton cement their position in sixth place while their opponents find themselves in the drop-zone.

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