For a change, the final whistle brought taunting for a former Fulham manager, not their current one. Calls for Martin Jol's head have provided the soundtrack for many of this season's matches at Craven Cottage, where Fulham were without a Premier League win since April Fool's Day, but this time, thanks to a late goal by Darren Bent, triumphalist chants were directed at the Dutchman's predecessor, Mark Hughes, who walked out of the club in 2011 in search of a more upwardly mobile side.

Bent's goal means Stoke and Fulham now stand together on seven points. The threat to Jol's job has receded, at least for now. "It was unbelievably important [to win]," said Jol. "I can come up with all the stories and excuses and say we have a good spirit and the players are behind each other and behind me but if you don't get the points everybody is under big pressure."

Hughes found defeat hard to take, justifiably saying Stoke had been superior for long periods. The visitors created far more chances and also had two strong penalty claims turned down to Fulham's one. "If everyone connected with Fulham is honest , I think they'd agree they were fortunate to collect three points," said Hughes. Honesty is a quality that Jol certainly possesses. "Of course we were a bit lucky," said the Dutchman, adding that there were many aspects of the performance that displeased him. "There are lots of things to work on, we must get better … but I am happy that the boys showed they can be strong under pressure."

Jol made four changes to the side that lost to Cardiff City last weekend and abandoned the 4-4-2 formation that had malfunctioned to revert to a 4-2-3-1 that meant Bent began on the bench. Stoke, with Steven N'Zonzi conducting from the centre, took charge early on and Marko Arnautovic was presented with the game's first chance in the 12th minute, when he volleyed wide from the edge of the area. Three minutes later the visitors howled for a penalty when Stephen Ireland collapsed following a challenge by Philippe Senderos but the referee, Roger East, saw no foul.

Stoke's anger intensified in the 26th minute when the official rejected an even stronger penalty claim, instead awarding a free-kick just outside the area after Fernando Amorebieta took down Jonathan Walters as the forward bounded towards goal. "These are key moments that shape the outcome of the game and the officials have to get them right," said Hughes. Arnautovic struck the free-kick into the wall before Sascha Riether nodded a Robert Huth header off the line from the resultant corner.

Not until the 33rd minute did Fulham muster a shot, Steve Sidwell driving over from 25 yards. That stimulated a temporary improvement from Fulham and four minutes later Sidwell went closer, sending a looping header onto the top of the crossbar from a Pajtim Kasami cross.

On the stroke of half-time, it was Fulham's turn to demand a penalty as Bryan Ruiz appeared to be tripped by Marc Wilson. Again East, a summer addition the Premier League's Select Group of officials, was unconvinced.

Jol had to replace his captain, Brede Hangeland, at half-time and adjust his defence. That did not provide any more security in the air, as Huth was still allowed to meet a corner in the 49th minute and headed just over. Dodgy defending from set-pieces has been a persistent problem for Fulham during this campaign and Jol wants it sorted. "We have worked constantly on it at training but we have to get it right."

Berbatov was hurt by a tackle from Glen Whelan and had to be replaced by Bent in the 65th minute but Stoke still looked more menacing.

Huth won yet another header from a corner in the 69th minute but sent it inches over. It seemed only a matter of time before Fulham's set-piece slackness would be punished. In the 80th minute Huth tried again, only to be denied on the line by Riether again.

Three minutes later Fulham stole the lead. A Kasami shot was deflected into the path of the predatory Bent, who sidestepped Huth and Begovic before netting from just eight yards.