Championship Round-up: Gayle boosts West Brom, Villa thumped
Albion and Stoke were both relegated from the Premier League last season, but it was the hosts who look more equipped for a quick return on the evidence of their success at the Hawthorns.
Gayle scored in the 16th and 59th minutes, while Benik Afobe missed a penalty for Stoke.
Erik Pieters' reply for Stoke came way too late and Gary Rowett's side have only one win from six games.
Villa, beaten in last season's play-off final, are aiming to go one better this season.
But at Bramall Lane, Jack O'Connell put the Blades ahead after six minutes and Mark Duffy added a deflected second.
Oliver Norwood made it three before the break and it was four thanks to Billy Sharp's 49th minute strike.
Anwar El-Ghazi netted a consolation for Villa.
Derby left it late but continued their fine start under Frank Lampard as they won 2-1 at Hull.
Recent signing Martyn Waghorn opened his account from the spot 23 minutes in, but Todd Kane levelled eight minutes after half-time.
Derby dug deep and won it through Florian Jozefzoon with two minutes left.
Jozefzoon's former club Brentford also impressed as they beat Nottingham Forest 2-1.
Lewis Macleod got them going and although in-form Matty Cash replied, Ollie Watkins won it deep into second half stoppage-time.
Adam Reach and Lucas Joao scored as Sheffield Wednesday won 2-1 at Reading, Liam Moore replying for the winless hosts.
Bolton hit back to draw 2-2 at Lancashire rivals Preston.
Callum Robinson and Alan Browne put Preston two up inside 16 minutes, but Sammy Amoebi and Pawel Olkowski levelled before the break.
Preston's Ben Pearson was sent off late on.
James Vaughan's goal 17 minutes from time earned Wigan a 1-0 win over Rotherham, while Birmingham and QPR drew 0-0.