The automatic use of hyperbole in Premier League football means it hard to say whether the fact that both the Queens Park Rangers manager, Mark Hughes, and the club owner, Tony Fernandes, referred to next Saturday's home match against Southampton as a game that had to be won is significant.

Fernandes, an inveterate tweeter, took rather longer than he usually does in responding to the stream of comments from disgruntled supporters demanding he dispense with Hughes's services after a seventh defeat in 11 games left Rangers at the bottom of the table.

Eventually he posted: "We got to cut out errors. One error cost us and we got to take our chances. Team played as planned. Must win next win. No panic. Table is compressed. Defense was awful now fairly solid. Midfield strong. Got to score now." It must have raised eyebrows among the Rangers fans who, like Fernandes, travelled to the Britannia Stadium.

Particularly the "played as planned" bit because seldom can a Match of the Day highlights package have been more misleading. Rangers looked disjointed and at times dispirited, lacking in cohesion and rhythm, and for a side including Adel Taarabt, Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlín, they created very little.

Djibril Cissé, isolated and horribly out of form up front, had the sort of game that made a mockery of his selection ahead of Jamie Mackie and though the defence did look more solid than of late, they were up against a Stoke side who had scored only eight goals in their previous 10 games and were playing five in midfield.

But Hughes, below, like Fernandes, saw it very differently. "We've come to a difficult place and acquitted ourselves really well but the key is taking chances when they present themselves and we didn't do that," said the manager, citing a bad Taarabt miss before half-time.

Shortly after the interval Charlie Adam seizing on a Jon Walters' knockdown, which Armand Traoré might have cleared, swept in his first goal for Stoke to give them only their second win in 17 league games. Granero, with a 70th-minute drive well saved by Asmir Begovic, came the closest to rescuing a point.

"We've had a number of games when it's been accepted by most people we've done really well but we haven't taken anything from them so that's the frustration from our point of view," said Hughes. "We are where we are at the moment but I'm confident given the effort and determination of the players to turn it round we'll be fine but it needs to happen next week."

And if it doesn't? Fernandes's insistence that now is not a time to panic is pretty much exactly what he said before sacking Neil Warnock last season.

Since then Hughes has overseen 29 league games, from which Rangers have picked up 24 points. On the basis they probably need at least 34 from their next 27 to stay up, they are clearly in a situation which Hughes – voluntarily making himself a hostage to fortune – stated they would never be again while he was in charge.

There were reports Owen Coyle was sitting near Fernandes on Saturday, though Harry Redknapp may be a more realistic option if the Malaysian businessman bites the bullet.

Stoke were almost equally unconvincing and the sight of Adam being moved to the right wing by his manager, Tony Pulis, was baffling. Peter Crouch was almost as isolated as Cissé and it was hard to find evidence the team are evolving in the way Pulis acknowledged they must. Small wonder he professed himself "absolutely bloody delighted" to have picked up all three points.

"Winning means a little bit of a monkey is off the players' shoulders and hopefully will give us the confidence to step up," he said. "I'm delighted for Charlie, we moved him around a little bit, we tried to get him in positions where he'll score or create chances and thank goodness he's come up with the goal.

"In our first couple of years in the Premier League teams would come here expecting to win, now they come to make it difficult. We have to deal with it, it's the progress you have to make. I think we have better footballers in the team now and we showed signs of moving the ball through the pitch really quick."

Another case of a manager seeing things rather differently to the rest, perhaps.

Man of the match Steven Nzonzi (Stoke City)