Harry Redknapp has opted to look on the bright side as result after result has gone against his side this season, but after this defeat the well of optimism had run dry. "Yeah, it looks it," said the QPR manager when asked whether this result put the final nail in their battle against relegation. "It's almost impossible now, for sure."

Aston Villa can provide the last rites for QPR with an unlikely win against Manchester United on Monday, but, for Rangers, it has long been a matter of when rather than if. In 2011, they stormed into the Premier League under Neil Warnock, with the Championship title in their back pocket. They will drop out a club warped by two years of on- and off-field largesse.

Here they were the better side for a good chunk of the first half before familiar failings took their toll. "It's disappointing," said Redknapp, before the glass-half-full state of mind returned, "but I've had other disappointments in the past and I'm sure I'll have them in the future."

With victory, Stoke City took a significant stride towards their own safety. Goals from Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters, from the penalty spot, stopped the rot and took them six points clear of the bottom three.

While QPR have had time to prepare for the inevitable, fear of the drop had seeped slowly upon Stoke with the bone-chilling creep of a horror film. This win – their second away from the Britannia Stadium all season – halted what was beginning to seem like an irrevocable slide with just enough time before the credits roll.

"It gives you a boost," said Stoke's assistant manager, Dave Kemp. "Confidence is a big thing in football. We haven't played that badly away from home, although our results don't suggest that. We've probably played better than that and got beat. It was important to get the win."

Redknapp shuffled his pack again in at an attempt to find a winning hand, with Rob Green, Shaun Derry and Tal Ben Haim making rare starts, though the rejigged lineup failed to remove the sense of perpetual defensive panic that pervades this team.

Stoke initially failed to test that fragility – one botched break apart – and the chances fell QPR's way. No Premier League team has conceded a greater percentage of goals from set pieces than Stoke this season, a statistic that must stick in Tony Pulis's craw so fundamental are they to his side's success, and they should have conceded another in the 17th minute, but Loïc Rémy failed to convert a header from Adel Taarabt's corner. Asmir Begovic then saved from Rémy and a José Bosingwa free-kick, but Stoke took the lead with a goal from a player who might have been lining up for the home side. Crouch tapped home from close range after fine work by Marc Wilson and Cameron Jerome.

"Peter's a good player, he's a player I've signed many times and I tried to bring him here in January," said Redknapp, who bought the striker at Portsmouth and Tottenham. "He's a good target, he holds the ball up, brings people into play, suits the way they play."

Ten minutes after the break, a superb run and shot from Rémy was met by an equally fine save from Begovic, but when Taarabt hobbled off a minute later, any attacking verve QPR possessed went with him. It was little surprise when Stoke doubled their lead. Robert Huth headed on to the post and Clint Hill was adjudged to have held Crouch as he made for the rebound. After being asked to retake because of encroachment, Walters tucked home the penalty.

That brought comfort to Stoke's lead, while the final whistle brought relief to the under-fire Pulis. "He's delighted," said Kemp. "We're in the winning business and we haven't won many games recently, so it affects him and everyone else at the club. That's the way it is, but he'll feel a lot better tonight."