Coventry City 1 Stoke City 2
Alarm bills are ringing loud and clear after a woeful second-half performance from Coventry City saw them slip to a sorry defeat and leave them firmly entrenched in the relegation mire.
Micky Adams' wasteful team capitulated to their seventh defeat of a troubled campaign and left the field to a chorus of boos.
They were handed a golden opportunity to record back-toback wins for the first time this season after Lilian Nalis' second goal for the club rewarded their early enterprise.
However, benevolence in both penalty areas ensured the lowest-ever crowd at the Ricoh Arena were disappointed, as Gerry Taggart and Paul Gallagher gave Stoke only their second win in eight games.
Adams was left scratching his head after a first-half showing that saw Coventry open up Stoke at will with an incisive brand of football; however, the second half was abject and a Dele Adebola header three minutes from full- time was their only worthwhile effort.
"We were lethargic after the break," confessed Adams. "It was a good opportunity for us to get back-to-back wins for the first time this season as Stoke's confidence was at a low ebb, but I need to get my best 11 out on the pitch."
Adams was forced to make two changes to the side that beat Luton on Saturday, with Lilian Nalis and Andrew Impey replacing Claus Jorgensen and Gary McSheffrey, who were injured and suspended respectively.
Both newcomers made an immediate impact. Impey surged down the right flank before rolling the ball back to Richard Duffy and his deep cross found Dele Adebola beyond the far post.
His firm downward header eluded the home defence and Nalis was on home to poke the ball past Steve Simonsen and hand Coventry an early fillip.
Within seconds of the restart, Adebola could have doubled the lead as he latched on to a clever pass from Michael Doyle and his low drive was parried to safety by Simonsen.
Stoke looked as fragile as Wedgwood china in defence, as befits a team that had lost six of its last seven fixtures, but they were dangerous on the counter-attack and Paul Gallagher's low drive flew inches wide of Marton Fulop's goal.
The pendulum swung towards Coventry once again as James Scowcroft was denied his third goal of the season by a coat of paint.
Stephen Hughes' corner was met by the unmarked striker and his header looked destined for the bottom corner but it struck the inside of Simonsen's post before being hacked to safety to end a breathtaking five-minute passage of play.
Adebola and Duffy both spurned chances as Adams' men threatened to cut loose. However, Coventry were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when Taggart equalised out of the blue seven minutes before the interval.
Stoke's record signing, Sam Bangoura, had been largely anonymous until he engineered himself a shooting opportunity with some fine footwork. His initial shot was blocked and the rebound reached Taggart, who rifled home a low left-foot drive through a sea of bodies.
Coventry regrouped and set the tempo once again after the interval, but were caught by another sucker punch ten minutes into the second period after Marcus Hall's dangerous cross had been headed clear by Carl Hoefkens.
Bangoura was involved once again as his slick pass fed Gallagher on the left wing and he advanced before curling a curling shot past the helpless Fulop into the top corner.
Adams decided to give youth its head and brought on teenagers Kevin Thornton and Liam Davis for Impey and Nalis. However, the game became increasingly fractious, as Coventry grew frustrated with their inability to make any inroads into a rejuvenated Stoke defence.