Stoke cling on to dent Blackburn's auto promotion hopes
Blackburn's automatic promotion hopes have suffered a setback as Stoke staved off a desperate fightback to win 3-2 in the Championship.
The visitors launched a late revival but failed to prevent their 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions from drawing to an end on Friday.
A confident Potters side, who thumped Sunderland 5-1 last weekend, picked up from where they left off with a quickfire first-half double.
Wolves loanee and former Liverpool and PSV Eindhoven player Ki-Jana Hoever twice finished expertly as he met accurate crosses, notching the first league goals of his career.
Tyrese Campbell added a third to put Stoke within reach of recording successive league victories for the first time since October.
However, late Rovers goals from Ben Brereton Diaz - his 12th of the season - and Sam Gallagher teed up a grandstand finish.
But in the end Blackburn had to settle for a loss and another opportunity missed to close the gap on the top two.
Blackburn manager Jon Dahl Tomasson rued his team's slow start.
"I'm really disappointed," Dahl Tomasson said. "I hate losing, the players hate losing, the fans hate losing. We always knew it was going to be a tough game and the first half cost us the game.
"The second half is more like what we've been playing in 2023 and the only thing I can complain about is the third goal, which we gave away.
"The players showed great character to come back, but it's a disappointed dressing room, which it should be when we gave the game away like we did.
"Credit to the players, who kept on believing, and scoring two goals away is not that bad, but of course we're disappointed."
It was Stoke's second successive league victory for the first time since October.
The Potters scored three goals in a fixture for the seventh time in 2023 as their encouraging start to the year continues.
Boss Alex Neil said: "For the first 80 minutes we were the better side, 3-0 up and comfortable.
"It was a really strong performance; we were dangerous on the break, and we contained Blackburn.
"But the last 10 minutes was disappointing. It had no right to become a game because we should have seen the game out."