However, Crouch’s goal didn’t prevent Hughes concentrating his attention on the 75th-minute goal scored by Newcastle United Jack Colback, who admitted he was fortunate to escape a second yellow card when he fouled Victor Moses just three minutes earlier.
The manager still delivered a blistering analysis of Friend’s performance and his words may be sufficient to earn him a trip to the FA to explain them. For once, though, there was some justification for yet another Hughes outburst about a referee.
“I’m disappointed with the referee,” Hughes said. “He wasn’t brave enough to make the right decision at a key moment in the game. It was clearly a second yellow, given those that had been dished out earlier.
“I’m not advocating that a player should be sent off, but refs need to be strong and make the right decision. He didn’t and, lo and behold, the player scored a goal that might have prevented us taking something out of the game.
“With the right decision, Newcastle would have been down to 10 men and I think we would have gone on to win the game.”
Newcastle manager John Carver predictably disagreed when asked if Colback’s tackle on Moses merited a booking. “Definitely not,” he said. “Did you ever see me play? Jack is a very competitive player and we are not going to change that. I thought the referee handled it extremely well.”
Carver got little support from the player, however. Colback admitted: “If I had seen a second yellow I couldn’t have felt too aggrieved, I caught him, but you ride your luck sometimes.”
Newcastle looked to be riding their luck all the way to three points in a game that stalled after a promising start when Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic saved well from Remy Cabella, Moussa Sissoko and Sammy Ameobi.
Stoke’s only first-half chance fell to Mame Biram Diouf in stoppage time. It was saved by Tim Krul, but Diouf went on to wrest midfield control, leaving Stoke looking the likeliest winners until Colback steered a cross from Gabriel Obertan inside the post.
Obertan and Ayoze wasted chances to seal a win for Newcastle and paid the price when Crouch met Geoff Cameron’s cross with a header that looped in over Krul.
Hughes said: “I heard somebody say that Harry Kane is the only guy who scores goals like that, but Peter has been doing it for a long, long time, We deserved the goal and showed character by going right to the end.”
It was a goal that dismayed Carver, who said: “We should have run the ball into the corner and taken a scrappy 1-0. We have a lot of young lads from different cultures and they must realise you have to go to the final minute in the Premier League. It’s my job to make sure we do. There are a lot of positives from the defensive point of view, but we have to be a bit more creative.”
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1) : Krul 6; Janmaat 7, Williamson 5, Coloccini 6, Haidara 6; Anita 5 (Cisse 65,6), Colback 6; Cabella 7 (Obertan 69,6), Sissoko 6, Ameobi 6 (Abeid 86,5); Perez 5.
Subs not used: Woodman, Gouffran, Riviere, Dummett.
STOKE (4-2-3-1): Begovic 7; Bardsley 6, Wollscheid 6, Muniesa 6, Wilson 6 (Cameron 51,6); Whelan 5, Nzonzi 6; Diouf 8, Ireland 6 (Crouch 82,7), Moses 6; Walters 6.
Subs not used: Butland, Palacios, Sidwell, Wilkinson.
Referee: K Friend (Leicester)
Man of the match: Mame Biram Diouf.