Match analysis: Wigan Athletic 2, Stoke City 2
HOW ironic that Stoke City should be playing on a rugby ground on the very day Charlie Adam arrives on the scene to signal a significant change in their style.
The irony will be lost on those harsh critics branding Stoke as "egg chasers" for the rest of their Premier League life, but not on those supporters detecting a discernible change of direction with many of this summer's signings.
Midfielder Adam produced one particular moment to symbolise the crossroads Stoke have now reached.
It was the moment he slipped a beauty of a pass inside the full-back for winger Michael Kightly – another summer recruit – in the second half.
Kightly checked his run – because he didn't read the pass, or didn't expect the pass – and so the ball trickled into no man's land.
A little moment, but a big statement.
At one point late in the game you'd swear there was a halo hovering above Adam's head, but maybe it was merely the sun reflecting off a distant advertising board.
Adam arrived a little belatedly, if understandably, after stepping off the bench for his debut when Andy Wilkinson, always a man to sacrifice himself for the team, sustained a timely bang to the head to step aside for Stoke's mercurial newcomer.
Adam immediately added a fresh tempo with simple passing that was quick in the head and incisive in the execution.
His introduction wasn't enough to win the game, perhaps, but certainly enough to save it.
His influence did wane in the latter stages – thanks to man marker James McCarthy sharing his shirt for an hour – but there had been a teasing glimpse of the possibilities ahead for those imploring greater quality in the middle of the park.
His menace from free-kicks was also evident in each half as one early effort begged to be touched home in front of goal, while a second late in the day was deflected goalwards to inspire one of the saves of the season when Ali Al Habsi changed direction to palm aside.
And not since Alan Hudson was tip-toeing through mud-laden pitches in the 1970s have Stoke fans seen a midfielder drop so deep to collect the ball.
Tony Pulis is far more pragmatic than Tony Waddington ever was, however, and so it was in more forward-lying areas that Adam was largely encouraged to influence proceedings.
Here is a player whose contribution is not confined to his own game, but by the evident effect he has on those around him.
Stoke, in need of confidence as well as ingenuity after Robert Huth's handball for Shaun Maloney's early penalty, visibly grew in stature and belief from the moment Adam joined in.
Indeed, half-time arrived at just the wrong time for a team further boosted by a decisive Jon Walters penalty after Peter Crouch's juggling act had ended with the ball rolling off Maynor Figueroa's chest and on to his arm.
Stoke were soon behind in the second half, however, when Marc Wilson fatally allowed the ball to by-pass him on the halfway line to give Arouna Kone the run on him.
The Ivory Coast international – his cream-coloured hair disturbingly reminiscent of El Hadji Diouf – eventually squared for Franco di Santo to crown Wigan's break with a goal.
One Stoke fan on a radio phone-in would later claim he and plenty more were still vociferously questioning the manager's decision to replace Kightly with Cameron Jerome on 75 minutes.
A curious confession given Jerome could have won the game for a Stoke side finishing much the stronger.
It was Jerome flicking on for Walters to loop the ball towards the far stick for Crouch to rise above his man and head across a helpless Al Habsi to level the scores at 2-2.
It was also Jerome clattering through the gears to race clear, force Al Habsi to save a cross-shot one-handed, then watch while Crouch's follow-up was superbly blocked. And it was Jerome volleying an awkward effort over when he might have been better served leaving the cross for the omnipresent Dean Whitehead at the far post.
Chuck in that deflected free-kick from Champagne Charlie – when that man Jerome failed to convert the loose ball from a tight angle – and you can see why Stoke, despite twice being behind, were somewhat miffed at leaving Wigan with a fourth draw in five Premier League visits.
So there we are. After three games and three draws, which do you say first?
That Stoke are unbeaten in the league this season? Or that Stoke are yet to win a game?
The answer, from a Stokie, may well define his or her entire perspective as a supporter.