After what could arguably be described as the worst 75 minutes of this Premier League season, these teams contrived to produce four goals in the last 15 minutes when they had looked as if they wouldn’t score that many times in four weeks.
In a switchback ride at the end, Portsmouth took the lead, only to fall behind before Hermann Hreidarsson emerged as their unlikely saviour in injury time.
A less likely denouement to what had gone before could scarcely have been imagined. So inept was the passing, and so bereft was the game of any imagination that it had seemed destined to be forgotten instantly in the fug of Sunday morning.
But given what then happened, it could well be talked about in May as the point that saved Stoke, or conceivably as the two points the Potters threw away and which condemned them to relegation. Only time will tell. However, crucial for Portsmouth was keeping the three-point gap between themselves and Stoke.
The deadlock was broken when David Nugent found Niko Kranjcar on the edge of the area, in the game’s first well-worked move, where the ball actually went where it was intended in a dangerous part of the pitch. The Croatia midfielder then slotted it past Thomas Sorensen. Cue madness. Five minutes later, the visitors were behind.
It seemed as if Kranjcar’s goal was the worst thing he could have done. Stung by that strike, Stoke immediately launched the ball - they have no other way of playing - into the Pompey penalty area, and from a header by Sol Campbell, the ball struck Glen Johnson on the shoulder and Stoke had a shot at salvation. Up stepped James Beattie, who thumped his penalty high to David James’s right. Naturally, both managers had an opinion on the penalty. “About time we had some luck,” said Tony Pulis, the Stoke manager. “Glen Johnson’s hand was nowhere near the ball,” complained Paul Hart, the Portsmouth caretaker manager.
Portsmouth had restored their fragile confidence slightly by beating Manchester City last week, but after the penalty they were back on their heels again, full of doubt.
Stoke found their second in their time-honoured fashion, after a cross by Andy Wilkinson found Danny Pugh at the far post. His volley managed to bounce through to Beattie, six yards out and unmarked, who flicked it into the gaping net.
Then, with injury time being played, Johnson made amends for earlier as he crossed from the right. Hreidarsson had pushed up and his off-target effort was deflected past Sorensen off the knee of Ryan Shawcross.
“That was two points dropped,” said an irked Pulis, whose team have still to play Middlesbrough and Blackburn. “We were unfortunate not to win,” was Hart’s view. In truth, this point was the most either side deserved.
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: Beattie