Nottingham Forest prevailed 3-2 against relegation-threatened Stoke City to move to the summit of the Championship table.
Lee Gregory broke the deadlock on 10 minutes with a close-range volley but Joe Lolley equalized before the half-time interval following a mistake from Jack Butland.
Sammy Ameobi headed the visitors into the lead immediately after the break and Lewis Grabban solidified the victory with an expert finish on the hour-mark.
James McClean offered hope when he reduced the deficit with five minutes of normal time remaining. Tom Edwards floated an auspicious free-kick into the heart of the penalty area and McClean evaded the Forest defence to steer his header into the net.
Stoke remain winless after 9 league matches and are five points adrift of safety. They’re now without a league victory since 6th April when they defeated Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.
Forest earned their first win away from home against The Potters since March 1994 and move one-point clear of second-place Leeds United courtesy of a third successive league win.
Stoke Efforts Go Unrewarded
A spirited first half performance from Stoke City went unrewarded when Joe Lolley capitalized on an error from Jack Butland to equalize for Nottingham Forest on 36 minutes.
Stoke City had taken the lead through former Millwall striker Lee Gregory just 10 minutes into the match. He instinctively volleyed the ball into the far top corner, after a thunderous strike from Tom Ince ricocheted fortuitously into his path.
The Potters built further momentum by dominating the opening 30 minutes. Although they originally set-up with a diamond midfield, Stoke frequently reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with Tom Ince and Sam Clucas being deployed on either flank.
This was a logical decision from Nathan Jones. Ince has been far more productive from the right wing – scoring 40 of his 44 career goals from that exact position.
He carved out the first opportunity of the match when he slipped an auspicious through ball into Gregory. Brice Samba recklessly emerged from his line and Gregory dragged the ball away from him and steered a low finish towards goal. Michael Dawson was alert to the danger and shifted across to heroically divert the ball behind.
Oghenekaro Etebo and Badou Ndiaye ran the show in the heart of midfield and their tireless energy prevented Nottingham Forest from retaining possession. Gregory acted as the focal point of the attack – pressing intensively when out of possession and holding up the ball effectively to allow the likes of Ince, Clucas and Powell to impact the match in the final third.
The home crowd recognised the unrelenting energy levels of their players and roared them forward as The Potters bristled with confidence. But a mistake from Jack Butland changed the tide of the game. Matty Cash lifted a speculative cross into the penalty area and Butland lacked authority when towering above Lewis Grabban.
He instead flapped at the ball and it dropped invitingly for Lolley to slam his finish into the far corner. Stoke had reason to feel hard done by as replays showed that Grabban was marginally offside when the cross was delivered but the mistake from Butland perfectly encapsulates the problems currently facing Nathan Jones’ side.
Stoke struggled to reaffirm their superiority once Forest equalized and Cash was teasing James McClean and Clucas down the right channel. They lost a significant amount of confidence and the energy levels desperately dropped as Forest moved into the driving seat.
Stoke Confidence in Tatters as Forest Edge Towards Victory
The second half couldn’t have started any worse for Stoke City. Cash continued to pose a threat out wide and Clucas failed to close him down when Sammy Ameobi met his cross beautifully to turn his header into the far top corner.
Badou Ndiaye widened their gaping wounds when he sustained an injury shortly after the interval. Liam Lindsay was introduced in his place and Stoke initially showed signs of promise by using Edwards and McClean as attacking outlets.
McClean exploited the space afforded by the advanced right-back Cash but they failed to show the clinical edge to convert his copious crosses into the box. Therefore, Nottingham Forest grew in confidence and ultimately ended the game as a contest when Lewis Grabban turned the ball home.
It was another defensive nightmare from the hosts. Ameobi battled with Ince and Edwards out on the right and the latter failed to show authority by simply clearing his lines. Instead, he gifted the ball to Ameobi, who hooked a dangerous cross towards the back post.
Lolley kept the attack alive by expertly bringing the ball down and squaring it to second-half substitute Tiago Silva. He scuffed his effort towards goal and Grabban instinctively swivelled and slammed his finish into the far bottom corner.
Late Fightback Offers Stoke Hope
Jones introduced Sam Vokes and Tyrese Campbell in a last-ditch attempt to forge a miraculous comeback. James McClean gave the hosts a glimmer of hope when he showed admirable courage inside the penalty area to head Edwards’ free-kick delivery into the top corner with five minutes remaining.
Stoke streamed forward in the dying stages of the match but Tom Ince wasted a prominent opportunity. He picked up the ball on the edge of the penalty area but opted to shoot rather than find McClean and sent a tame effort dribbling into the gloves of Samba.
Tensions were on a knife-edge at the Bet365 Stadium but Forest continued to remain defensively resolute. Despite showing an unrelenting determination to salvage a point, time proved to be their worst enemy and Forest reached the final whistle as the victors.
Nick Powell made his first start since the opening match of the season after recovering from injury. Nathan Jones used a back-four and a diamond midfield for the first time since their defeat against Preston North End in August.
Nottingham Forest remained unchanged but lost Michael Dawson to injury mid-way into the first half. Stoke City also had to make a forced substitution when Badou Ndiaye went down off the ball at the beginning of the second half.
Stoke City: J. Butland (3), T. Edwards (3), Carter-Vickers (4), B. Martins Indi (4), J. McClean (5), T. Ince (5), Oghenekaro Etebo (6), Badou Ndiaye (6), S. Clucas (5), N. Powell (4), L. Gregory (6). Subs: L. Lindsay (4), Sam Vokes (3), T. Campbell (3).
Nottingham Forest: B. Samba (5), M. Cash (8), M. Dawson (5), J. Worrall (6), J. Robinson (5), S. Sow (5), B. Watson (5), J. Lolley (7), J. Carvalho (7), S. Ameobi (7), L. Grabban (7). Subs: Chema (5), T. Silva (6), A. Adomah (3).