Sunderland's difficulties in trying to establish themselves as a competitive Premiership side have been exposed no where more than in midfield.
The Black Cats struggle without a Lee Cattermole or a Jan Kirchhoff or both as the case is at the present time.
While Jack Rodwell, formerly with Everton and Man City, at 25 is no youth, the Cats trio of him, Didier Ndong and Paddy McNair were eclipsed by seasoned campaigners Glenn Whelan, Geoff Cameron and Joe Allen, who was Sunderland's executioner with two goals.
Whelan and Cameron both came into the side from successful international stints with the Republic of Ireland and USA, while their wide midfielers Marko Arnoutovic and Xherdan Shaqiri were in equally good touch.
But the difference between the two sides proved to be Allen.
David Moyes does not have the luxury Mark Hughes has - a £12 miillion gem in Allen. The Sunderland boss would give his right arm for a Joe Allen.
He ended Stoke's wait for a first-half goal this season with an eighth-minute header before striking home a second on the stroke of half-time with his left foot.
It took Allen to four goals in three games for the Potters, equalling his best-ever Premier League haul for an entire season when he managed four with Swansea in 2011-12.
"We pushed him further forward just because sometimes when you get the opportunity to work with players day-in, day-out you see things that you didn't realise that they may have the capability of," said Hughes.
"His anticipation of where the ball is going to land was evident for everyone to see.
"In midfield or out wide or wherever the ball was dropping he anticipates really well.
"So if you can get him anticipating things in the box he's going to get on the end of things and that's what's happening at the moment.
"We're delighted with what he's producing - he's doing exceptionally well. We're delighted he's with us."