Sheffield United's hopes of a play-off spot are disappearing fast, Clive Clarke delivering the blow that could keep United in the first division.
The Blades produced another miserable performance with Neil Warnock's side booed off at the final whistle.
Stoke showed the better touches in a scrappy game and almost took an early lead, former United striker Carl Asaba firing in from a tight angle, his low shot beating Paddy Kenny with the ball spinning wide of the far post.
United sparked into life in the 26th minute, Jack Lester cleverly turning past Wayne Thomas and John Halls before finishing with a low shot from 12 yards, the ball drifting a fraction wide of the far post.
The former Forest striker went close a minute later, this time steaming into to snap up a loose clearance, his eye-catching volley from 15 yards flying over the bar.
City midfielder Kris Commons almost broke the deadlock in the 28th minute weaving past defender Rob Kozluk, and with Asaba waiting in the area he drilled in a fierce strike from a tight angle, the ball fisted away from under the bar by Kenny.
Clarke tried his luck with a long-range strike, the ball flying over the target after being given space to run from midfield.
United failed to heed the warning and in a carbon copy move deep into first-half injury-time the Stoke midfielder again charged for goal before unleashing a stinging shot from 20 yards, the ball flying into the top right hand corner.
United squandered an opportunity in the 54th minute following another quality cross from Alan Wright. The former Middlesbrough defender's precise centre was met by Chris Morgan, as the unmarked centre back burst into the area only to pull his header wide of the goal.
The Sheffield side finally found the target in the 70th minute, Lester scoring from close range. But the goal was ruled out, substitute Wayne Allison penalised for pushing Gerry Taggart as he climbed to flick on Kozluk's long throw.