Juninho Bacuna cranked up the pressure on Stoke City manager Nathan Jones with a late winner for Huddersfield Town that leaves the Potters bottom of the Championship, without a league win in 16 games.
Jones conceded after the game that the owners had already given him “enough time” to “arrest the downward spiral”, going on to apologise for their poor form.
Bacuna, who was brought on as a substitute to give the Terriers a lift amid real Stoke pressure, handed new boss Danny Cowley his first victory and the club’s first in 20 matches.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, he scampered forward, played a one-two with fellow sub Adama Diakhaby and smashed the ball past Adam Federici, who had replaced England goalkeeper Jack Butland.
It was a cruel sucker-punch for a Stoke side that had enjoyed the majority of possession, without truly challenging Town keeper Kamil Grabara.
“We’ve shown a lot of resilience,” Terriers boss Cowley told BBC Radio Leeds. “When you do that you always give yourself a foothold in the game.
“The subs, I call them ‘game-changers’, they came on and gave us energy, athleticism and a really dynamic counter-attack.”
Jones admits responsibility for Stoke slide
Despite the Potters’ poor form, there was little poison from the Boothen End towards the beleaguered Jones, rather initial encouragement and then a slightly muted atmosphere prompted by the stagnant nature of the game.
Huddersfield have already moved to sack Jan Siewert and bring in the Cowley brothers after their slide down the table, and with 10 winless league games now gone – Stoke’s worst start to a season in 30 years – the Coates family ownership may also be considering their options.
Potters boss Jones took full responsibility for the slump which has seen just two points earned from a possible 30.
“Decisions have to be made, and I’ve tried to arrest the downward spiral and I’ve been unable to do that,” the 46-year-old told BBC Radio Stoke.
“They [the owners] have stuck by me unbelievably, they’ve given me enough time and I’m sorry I’ve been unable to repay them.
“Nothing has been said, but I’m not silly. We’re nowhere near where we need to be and I take full responsibility for that.”
Tension felt on the field
The former Luton Town boss had stated there was “no fear” about the pressure on his position at the Bet365 Stadium, but the tension did appear to affect players on both sides, as neither team looked comfortable and awry touches and off-target passes punctuated the play.
With the match often a battle for territory, Elias Kachunga’s sloppy effort wide in the first half was Huddersfield’s only shot on goal between kick-off and Bacuna’s strike.
Stoke fared only slightly better for all their second-half surges, with a dipping volley over the bar from Cameron Carter-Vickers and a skewed header from Joe Allen the best of their opportunities.
The Terriers remain in the relegation places, three points behind Reading in 17th, but are finally off the mark for the first time since their Premier League win over Wolves in February.