Mark Hughes thought an FA Cup defeat at Coventry could prove a blessing in disguise for Stoke – but hours later the result got him the sack.
The beleaguered boss suffered third-round embarrassment in his 200th game in charge of Stoke as Jack Grimmer struck to hand the Sky Blues a 2-1 win.
Stoke’s Charlie Adam had equalised with a second-half penalty after Jordan Willis opened the scoring but, despite a late rally, Hughes saw his Potters dumped out by their League Two opponents.
It left Hughes in a desperate situation, with Stoke also in the Premier League relegation zone, and the club decided time was up for the Welshman.
Shortly after 8pm, Stoke said Hughes’ contract had been “terminated with immediate effect”.
‘We would like to thank Mark for all he has achieved for the Club over the last four and a half years, notably in guiding us to three successive ninth places finishes in the Premier League, and we wish him every success for the future,’ read a club statement.
He may have seen that news coming, but Hughes still looked to find positives after the humiliating cup defeat.
After the game, he had said: “The fact we’ve gone out, even if it’s a little bit raw at the moment, might help us.
“At the moment we don’t want to discuss Premier League games but maybe when we wake up on Monday the reality clearly has to be our league form.”
He questioned whether the result would affect his future, and added: “It just highlights we need to do better.
“But in the long term, certainly until the end of the season, it might be a blessing for us.”
Former Manchester United and Wales striker Hughes, 54, joined Stoke in May 2013 after previous spells in club management with Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and QPR.
Defeat on Saturday marked the first time Stoke have been knocked out, as a top-flight side, by a team from the fourth tier or below since they lost to Bradford Park Avenue in 1938.
Willis headed in after 24 minutes to put Coventry ahead but conceded a penalty soon after the break when he brought down Ramadan Sobhi and Adam levelled.
Grimmer then hit the winner with 22 minutes left when his low effort flew past Jack Butland.
Coventry are 53 places below Stoke in the football pyramid and boss Mark Robins hailed his players.
“It was a hard-fought win, but a deserved one,” Robins said. “I thought we were magnificent and it’s a really proud day for me.
“I don’t think we’re coming in here and saying we held on. I think we had to defend really well at times but if we’d have come in at half-time 3-0 up I don’t think anybody would have complained.
“The lads that have performed have been magnificent and for us. It’s a great barometer where we can get to and where we can get to in the last 20 league games.
“The cup is an extra for us, I can’t tell you how important it is for everybody. It brings everybody together, that today is massive for us.”