What makes Stoke City successful is that they understand what they are about. This week, Gary Megson gave an interview to BBC Radio Manchester in which he tried to explain why his relationship with Bolton's fans collapsed so disastrously. Among the manager's "crimes" was to field a side against Sporting Lisbon that seemed designed to go out of the Uefa Cup.
Megson argued that Bolton's league position had not allowed him the luxury of romance. Tony Pulis's attitude appears entirely different. His Stoke sides enter cup competitions with the aim of winning. It is why coach after coach thundered along the A50 that links the Britannia Stadium with Pride Park, and why some 5,600 fans jammed one end of the ground singing: "We're going to Valencia, you're going to Peterborough."
With both Manchester clubs out of the FA Cup, Stoke may fancy their chances of going back to Wembley. "This was our 14th cup tie of the season and we are guaranteed another three – two against Valencia and the fifth round of the FA Cup," said Pulis. "We're still quite new to the Premier League and that we've gone so far in the cups is a testament to the players and to the effort and commitment they give."
Derby had won six of their last eight games but they were dealt with swiftly. The tie had barely warmed up when Glenn Whelan, having had his short corner played back to him, delivered a cross that was touched on to Cameron Jerome. He drove the ball home for his third goal in as many matches.
In the home dug-out, Nigel Clough thought Jerome was offside. "I would have thought Premier League officials would have known better," said the Derby manager. "You can't legislate for that. We played some good stuff before half-time and put them on the back foot. But to have beaten Stoke we needed everything to go right and to concede an offside goal after five minutes didn't let us get a foothold in the game."
Save for a 20-minute spell before the interval, Derby seldom threatened to come to terms with their task. Pulis thought Stoke sloppy after they scored, a subject he addressed at half-time.
To have won through, or to have forced an equaliser, Derby needed to maximise their advantage. They did not and Pulis said he could not recall a single second-half save from Asmir Begovic. The second 45 minutes witnessed a relentless turn of the screw. A free-kick from Jermaine Pennant, from 30 yards, bounced wickedly in front of Frank Fielding, who managed to push it to safety.
Jonathan Walters headed on to the roof of the net and then, with nine minutes left, Robert Huth met Pennant's corner on the full with an outstretched boot and the shot squirmed under Fielding's body. Since he had already struck the post with a header, Huth might have thought he had earned any fortune.
For Stoke there is now Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday; Sunday sees a more bitter Midlands rivalry come to Pride Park, in the shape of Nottingham Forest.
Derby (4-4-2): Fielding; Brayford, Barker, Shackell (Naylor, 90), Roberts; Green, Hendrick, Bailey (Tyson, 77), Ward; Bryson (Buxton, 86), Ball.
Stoke (4-4-2): Begovic; Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Walters, Whitehead, Whelan, Etherington (Pennant, 63); Jerome (Fuller, 77), Crouch (Jones, 66).
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Huth (Stoke)
Match rating: 6/10
Derby County 0 Stoke City 2 (Jerome, Huth)