Stoke City 1 Sheffield United 0: Blades' play-off hopes dealt a blow by John Egan's own-goal
The Potters, who have now won two consecutive league games for the first time since November, missed a sequence of glorious opportunities before eventually breaking the deadlock with a slice of fortune.
Now without a win in five games on their travels, the promotion-hopeful Blades struggled to assert themselves as they slipped out of the play-off fray.
The home side, who ended a nine-match winless run before the international break, started brightly with veteran ex-Blades defender Phil Jagielka first to test Wes Foderingham.
United also flexed their attacking muscle in a fast-paced opening to the tie, with Morgan Gibbs-White a constant outlet for the visitors.
After a goal and two assists whilst on international duty with England Under-21s, the on-loan Wolves youngster looked to continue his good form but Jordan Thompson did well to deny him with a block early on.
The lively Jacob Brown then tried to add to his tally of 11 goals for the season but blazed an effort harmlessly over from a promising position.
The aforementioned Gibbs-White was thwarted by international colleague Taylor Harwood-Bellis in the biggest chance of an uneventful first period before the half-hour mark. The Blades’ bright spark advanced into the penalty area and nearly prodded home the opener, but Harwood-Bellis did enough to preserve the deadlock.
Stoke marksman Brown again struggled to find his finishing touch, firing wildly over from an acute angle as the fixture reached a lull before the interval.
After the restart, the home side returned firmly in the ascendency and had three golden opportunities to take the lead in a frenetic three-minute period.
First, Josh Maja fired an enticing delivery across the face of goal with D’Margio Wright-Phillips lying in wait to convert, only for a heroic Ben Davies intervention to deny the latter.
Maja then squandered two gilt-edged chances from point-blank range, both almost in identical scenarios after two inch-perfect deliveries from Josh Tymon. The on-loan Bordeaux striker failed to redirect the first cross on target and then failed to connect completely despite entering the six-yard box unchallenged.
However, the Potters’ second-half dominance in pursuit of a winner did not prove to be in vain as they opened the scoring in fortunate circumstances in the 77th minute.
A Tymon delivery flicked off the hand of a helpless Egan, wrong-footing Foderingam and nestling in the Blades’ net for what proved to be the winner.
Ben Osborn nearly salvaged a point with a late volleyed effort, but his strike whistled past the post as Stoke held on for victory.