THE LAST chance saloon appears to be well and truly out of beer now.
Ex Ranger Peter Crouch scored once and earned a penalty to sink his former club and now even those who believe in miracles must have thrown their optimism in the dustbin.
Rangers kept scratching around for something, anything, to give a little substance to their hopes of sparking an unlikely relegation escape, but the spark never came.
Adel Taarabt, at least, played as if he still believed – tearing goalwards in many a mazy dribble, until he departed through injury at the start of the second half.
Loic Remy too looked as if he was not quite ready to throw in the towel. But with each near miss the screw seemed to tighten.
In the first half, a win did not look out of the question, even if there have been precious few of those this season.
Remy plucked a high ball out of the air to send a left foot shot at keeper Asmir Begovic, then clipped a first-time effort just past the post from the edge of the D after Taarabt (pictured) had laid an inviting ball in his direction.
Taarabt and Jose Bosingwa both went close with first half free-kicks. The early one from the Moroccan flew just wide, the second from the Portuguese drew a good save.
Stoke's position. Far from as helpless as QPR's but still close to critical after a wretched run of form, went close through Jonathan Walters – Robert Green spilled his shot – and Crouch, who chanced his arm from 30 yards and had Green clawing away a ball heading for the top corner.
But the former Rangers man was determined to get there and he put the Potters 1-0 up after 42 minutes - rolling the ball home from close range after Cameron Jerome had ghosted around Chris Samba to the left byline.
It was a moment Rs boss Harry Redknapp would have been dreading and maybe half expecting, as the striker is a player he has had underhis wing before and who has been almost like a son to him.
Stephane Mbia almost restored parity by flicking out a boot at a free-kick from the right – the ball flashing narrowly wide. But the first half summed up the way it has gone for too much of the season as far as Rangers are concerned.
The second half saw Jamie Mackie on for Andros Townsend, but the luck did not change, with Taarabt forced off with a shoulder injury and Remy being denied by Green after going around two defenders. Then Mbia got in the way of a Samba drive that looked destined for the net.
The failures up front were not all down to back luck, though, with Remy badly at fault for ignoring Junior Hoilett in acres of space to his left in a breakaway.
All that remained was for Stoke to finish the job and they pretty much did in the 76 th minute when Walters tucked home a penalty.
Ref Chris Foy pointed to the spot after Clint Hill had impeded Crouch as the pair homed in on a rebound off a post – Robert Huth having headed a Glenn Whelan free-kick against the woodwork.
The slumped shoulders on the bench slumped that bit more and there was no way back.
Line-up: Green; Bosingwa, Samba, Hill, Ben Haim; Townsend (Mackie h/t), Mbia, Derry, Hoilett; Taarabt (Bothroyd 56); Remy. Subs not used: Cesar, Diakite, Park, Granero, Onuoha.