Everton have been Stoke's bogey team in recent years, but the manner in which David Moyes' team lost for the first time in 13 meetings between the clubs emphasised the fact that it is Moyes, rather than opposite number Tony Pulis, who enters the new year with the biggest problems.
Put simply, his need to find a consistent goal-scorer is now acute.
Everton had plenty of possession but lacked any sort of cutting edge, and with Tim Cahill -- the club's top scorer this season by a distance -- now heading off for a month to play in the Asia Cup for Australia, Moyes needs to use the transfer window to increase his striking options.
The Scot confirmed he would, indeed, be "trawling" the market, though any new faces will be arriving on loan rather than permanent signings.
"I don't think the scoreline justified the result, we played well enough to get something out of the game," insisted Moyes. "But we didn't take our chances, especially in the first half, and anybody who watches Everton will tell you that is a recurring theme this season."
Everton had a very good shout for a penalty turned down in the first minute, Louis Saha touching the ball past Ryan Shawcross before appearing to be chopped down. "A definite penalty," said Moyes, and Pulis pretty much agreed.
But having got away with one, Stoke should have taken the lead when Asmir Begovic's punt was headed on by Kenwyne Jones. Ricardo Fuller controlled the ball and turned inside Sylvain Distin but, with only Tim Howard to beat, dragged his shot horribly wide.
The Potters did open the scoring when Phil Neville was embarrassed by Matthew Etherington's close control on the left wing, and the winger sent over a hanging cross to which Jones, from more or less a standing start, rose superbly to place a header beyond Howard.
Everton looked certain to equalise when Leighton Baines' cross picked out Cahill but for once the midfielder, usually so effective in the air, steered his header beyond, instead of inside, the far post. The visitors continued to keep Stoke on the back foot up to the break, but the Potters' committed defence was epitomised by Dean Whitehead's throwing himself to block Steven Pienaar's shot shortly before half-time.
For 10 minutes after the break Everton maintained the pressure, but their lack of focus remained apparent. Moyes made an attacking double substitution, but within minutes Stoke doubled their lead when Fuller and Phil Jagielka contested for a high ball in the Everton penalty area.
Neither made clean contact, but as the ball came down Jagielka stuck out a foot and somehow turned the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Thereafter, Everton huffed and puffed but never looked liked creating a clear-cut chance. The arrival of Jermaine Beckford with 10 minutes remaining was a futile gesture, the former Leeds striker failing utterly to make any sort of impact.
"We're pleased, that was a big result for us after the last two home games," said Pulis. "Everton are a very, very good side, they have players who can move the ball quickly, they have a lot of power, and I believe they will go on a run and finish near the top of the table."
The Stoke manager also paid tribute to Jones, whom he said had recently had to deal with some family issues. The way in which the Trinidadian took his goal, his seventh of the season, suggested he has not allowed them to affect him.
Sunday Indo Sport