Bolton Wanderers slipped to a two goal defeat in difficult playing conditions at the Britannia Stadium
In truth both of the Stoke goals could have easily ended in a different outcome as Higginbotham somehow smuggled the ball over the goal line at the back post from a corner in the first half and Etherington's penalty crept over the line despite the best efforts of Jussi Jaaskelainen.
And after plenty of huff and puff in the latter stages of the game, ultimately Wanderers were unable to break down Stoke's resistance.
Manager Owen Coyle made six changes to the line-up that faced York City in the FA Cup the previous weekend.
Jussi Jaaskelainen, Paul Robinson, Matt Taylor, Johan Elmander, skipper Kevin Davies and a fully recovered Stuart Holden all returned to the starting XI.
Ivan Klasnic missed out all together with a groin injury but Wanderers were able to name six substitutes in total.
In blustery and grim conditions in the Potteries the Whites started the game in a resilient manner, thwarting a number of hopeful long balls aimed at defensive duo Gary Cahill and Zat Knight.
There was also a spate of swirling Rory Delap throw-ins that were dealt with admirably by the Wanderers rear-guard as the home fans soon upped the decibel levels.
The only effort on goal of any real note in the early throes of the game came via an unorthodox flick from Elmander. The Swede diverted a cross from Sam Ricketts that looped narrowly over the crossbar.
Meanwhile, at the other end Tuncay's speculative effort from all of 30 yards was well grasped by Jaaskelainen whilst Robert Huth glanced a header onto the roof of the net from another Delap throw.
The home side then began to assert their authority on the game. Dean Whitehead arced a dangerous ball into the Wanderers box that was met by Kenwyne Jones who was denied by a top one handed save from Jaaskelainen. From the resulting kick Huth then powered another header goalwards only for it to fly narrowly by the post.
In truth the game was bereft of any real quality and neither side really deserved to take the lead, but unfortunately for the Whites, the hosts did.
Tuncay's corner glanced off Elmander's head at the near post whilst Danny Higginbotham somehow managed to bundle the ball over the line when arriving late at the far stick. It wasn't pretty, but the hosts had a lead.
In the opening ten minutes of the second period there was a visible difference in the tempo of the game as the Whites attempted to make inroads into the Stoke half. And those attempts almost paid off for Wanderers when Holden extended Asmir Begovic in the Potters goal with a free-kick following persistent work from Mark Davies and Taylor.
Kevin Davies then smuggled an effort towards the goal from Taylor's corner that was pounced on by Begovic as Wanderers upped the ante.
But unfortunately as Wanderers went in search of an equaliser Stoke capitalised on a rare foray forward. Tuncay released Matthew Etherington who raced in on goal only for Knight to bring down the winger with a last ditch challenge inside the area.
Etherington dusted himself down and narrowly squeezed the resulting spot kick beyond Jaaskelainen's post to double home side's lead.
Prior to the penalty Coyle had readied Rodrigo and Martin Petrov and they were thrown on in an attempt to break the Stoke resistance.
And Rodrigo almost made an immediate impact shimmying his way around a defender on the edge of the area before stinging the fingertips of Begovic.
Kevin Davies again came close from a corner before late on and Tamir Cohen forced a save out of Begovic with a header, but ultimately Wanderers' search for a goal was to prove fruitless.
Stoke City: Begovic, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Higginbotham, Delap, Wilson (Whelan 70), Whitehead, Etherington (Pugh 88), Tuncay, Jones (Walters 81) (Unused substitutes: Sorensen, Collins, Pennant, Faye)
Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Knights, Cahill, Robinson, M Davies, Muamba (Rodrigo 66), Holden (Cohen 83), Taylor (Petrov 66), Elmander, K Davies (Unused substitutes: Bogdan, Alonso, Blake)