Robin van Persie ended his goal drought as Manchester United restored their 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League table and deepened Stoke's relegation worries with a 2-0 win at the Britannia Stadium.
Van Persie had gone 10 domestic matches without scoring but won and then converted a penalty in the 66th minute to make the points safe.
Michael Carrick had opened the scoring inside four minutes and United now need only seven points from their remaining six games to ensure they cannot be caught by Manchester City.
Stoke dropped to 16th before kick-off after Sunderland's win over Newcastle and, having taken only one point from their last seven games, are looking below them with ever increasing concern.
The Potters really could not afford was a bad start. But they made exactly that, conceding a fourth-minute corner that they failed to clear, allowing Carrick to prod beyond the despairing dive of Asmir Begovic.
Wayne Rooney was given space and time to take aim from 25 yards with a shot pushed away by Begovic as Stoke struggled even to touch the ball. However, Charlie Adam won a free-kick wide on the right and Glenn Whelan's cross was headed just wide by Robert Huth.
Begovic was forced into another save just past the half-hour mark, scooping a Van Persie shot from a narrow angle behind.
Adam tested David de Gea for the first time in the 59th minute with a well-struck shot from long range.
The Potters were dealt a crushing blow when they gave away a penalty. A flowing move that began with Phil Jones at right-back progressed through Antonio Valencia and Rooney, who picked out Van Persie in the area.
The Dutchman cut inside Wilkinson, who tripped him, and Van Persie stepped up to tuck his spot-kick smartly into the bottom corner of the net.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wayne Rooney: A class performance from England man. Excellent contribution to a comfortable win.
Stoke City: Begovic 6; Cameron 5, Shawcross 5, Huth 5, Wilkinson 4; Shotton 4, Whelan 5, Nzonzi 5, Adam 5; Walters 5, Jones 5.subs: Owen 6, Crouch 6, Jerome 6
Manchester United: De Gea 7; Jones 7, Vidic 7, Ferdinand 7, Evra 7; Valencia 7, Kagawa 7, Carrick 7, Rooney 8, Hernandez 7, Van Persie 7.subs: Welbeck 6