Beaten 2-0 in the Champions League by the Spanish champions in midweek, with boss Manuel Pellegrini subsequently charged by UEFA for his post-match criticism of referee Jonas Eriksson, it had been a difficult few days for the blue half of Manchester.
But with City looking set to drop points against Stoke for a second time this season, Yaya Toure’s 70th-minute winner maintained his side’s Premier League title push as Pellegrini’s charges kept pace with rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.
The visitors, unchanged from their draw with Swansea City, were the first to get a shot on target as Charlie Adam’s long-range strike was collected by Joe Hart three minutes in.
However, it was Manchester City who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges stages – Aleksandar Kolarov forcing Asmir Begovic to clear a dangerous cross after working space on the left-hand side before the Stoke goalkeeper saved Fernandinho’s effort shortly afterwards.
Marc Wilson was then on hand to block Pablo Zabaleta’s goalbound effort before Jon Walters and Ryan Shawcross both saw headers drift wide of Hart’s goal.
Adam again proved a threat from distance when his swerving drive was tipped wide by City’s England international after 21 minutes.
Despite enjoying a positive start, City looked off the pace for long spells, finding it difficult to break down Stoke’s stubborn defence as they were limited to strikes from outside the area from Toure and Samir Nasri – both of which were collected simply enough by Begovic.
Edin Dzeko, one of two City changes from the defeat to Barca, curled a shot marginally wide with 44 minutes on the clock but it was to no avail as the sides went in level at the break.
City began the second half in much the same way as they ended the first, dominating possession but failing to find the killer ball in behind Stoke’s backline.
Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic were both introduced before Toure finally settled the hoem fans’ nerves – sweeping home Kolarov’s cross from close range, with Begovic’s hand not enough to stop it rolling over the line.
Dzeko should have made it two shortly afterwards, when Navas found him with an expert delivery, but the Bosnian was unable to convert with the goal at his mercy.
It mattered little however, as former City boss Mark Hughes’ return to the Etihad Stadium proved an unhappy one while the hosts picked up their first Premier League win in three matches.