Stephen Ireland scored on his full debut as Stoke beat Tranmere in the Capital One Cup third round.
The midfielder, a deadline day loan signing from Aston Villa, struck from close range in the first half after being put through by Marko Arnautovic.
Rovers had the better of the second half as Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro curled over and Chris Atkinson sliced wide.
League Cup fourth-round draw
Sunderland v Southampton
Leicester City v Fulham
Birmingham City v Stoke City
Manchester United v Norwich City
Burnley v West Ham United
Arsenal v Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City
Newcastle United v Manchester City
All ties are scheduled to take place in the week commencing 28 October
But Stoke wrapped up victory with the last kick of the game as Peter Crouch prodded home Oussama Assaidi's ball.
Since replacing Tony Pulis as manager earlier this year, Mark Hughes has been trying to develop a passing style at Stoke - something Potters fans have perhaps not quite been accustomed to over the years.
Hughes' influence was evident at Tranmere, certainly in a first half Stoke dominated as they patiently developed attacks from the back.
They pushed and probed in the opening exchanges, but the players' efforts were let down by poor decision-making in the final third, as Arnautovic and Glenn Whelan shot wide with speculative efforts, while Geoff Cameron over-hit a cross after good build-up play by Jermaine Pennant.
But their patience was rewarded in the 23rd minute when Arnautovic found the run of Ireland with a smart through ball that took out the entire Tranmere defence, allowing the midfielder to calmly side-foot the ball beyond home keeper Owain Fon Williams.
For the next 15 minutes Stoke had Tranmere firmly pegged back inside their own half, although they struggled to turn their possession into genuine goal-scoring chances.
Tranmere, though, rarely looked like punishing the visitors on the counter, even when gifted possession as a wayward Crouch pass found Ryan Lowe, but the striker's second touch saw him knock the ball straight to a Stoke defender.
Potters building well
Stoke have lost just once since their opening-day defeat away to Liverpool.
The hosts had an even better chance to equalise midway through the second half as a flowing move split open the Stoke defence and Akpa Akpro raced into the box, wrong-footed a defender but his curled effort flew over the bar.
That chance evidently gave the Tranmere players more belief and they started to press the Stoke defence, going close again when Atkinson skewed a shot wide from seven yards.
But Stoke settled the away fans' nerves when Crouch brought Assaidi's long pass under control before stabbing the ball into the net.
Tranmere manager Ronnie Moore:
"We played a Premier League side who have adapted really well in such a short space of time. It is fantastic to see how they have adapted, they are a good passing side.
"It was gut wrenching they scored a second in the last minute but it was a fantastic finish and that it was what they are all about, you give them a couple of chances and they score but overall I was pleased with the way we defended."
Stoke City manager Mark Hughes:
"I was really pleased with how we went about our business.
"When you have a fixture like this in the early rounds of the cup, if you don't approach it in the right manner and give respect to the opposition, and make sure your work is correct, you can cause yourself problems.
"But from the first minute I could tell the lads were focused on what was required. There was a good tempo to our passing and our play. We played some really good stuff at times. We were in total control of the game which was really pleasing.
"Our level of performance at the moment is really high."
- 01 fon Williams
- 03 Horwood (Holmes - 46' )
- 04 Taylor
- 06 Hateley
- 20 Dugdale
- 12 Rowe (Bell-Baggie - 74' )
- 14 Atkinson
- 17 Power
- 26 Akpa Akpro
- 09 Lowe
- 16 Stockton
- 33 Mooney
- 02 Holmes
- 05 Goodison
- 07 Thompson
- 11 Bell-Baggie
- 19 Sodje
- 21 Davies
- 29 Sorensen
- 04 Huth
- 05 Muniesa
- 17 Shawcross
- 20 Cameron
- 06 Whelan
- 08 Palacios
- 32 Ireland (Assaidi - 61' )
- 07 Pennant (Walters - 76' )
- 10 Arnautovic (Etherington - 77' )
- 25 Crouch
- 22 Butland
- 28 Wilkinson
- 16 Adam
- 24 Assaidi
- 26 Etherington
- 09 Jones
- 19 Walters
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows for the end of the match.90:00 +3:52
Oussama Assaidi provided the assist for the goal.90:00 +3:52 Goal scored
Goal! - Peter Crouch - Tranmere 0 - 2 Stoke Peter Crouch scores with a right foot finish. Tranmere 0-2 Stoke.90:00 +2:56
Max Power takes the free kick.90:00 +2:51
The offside flag is raised against Oussama Assaidi.90:00 +1:50
Owain Fon Williams takes the free kick.90:00 +1:43
Jonathan Walters challenges Danny Holmes unfairly and gives away a free kick.90:00 +0:58
Oussama Assaidi sends in a cross.85:14
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the right of the net.84:31
Jonathan Walters takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the left of the goal.82:45
Header by Jonathan Walters goes harmlessly over the bar.82:25
Matthew Etherington crosses the ball.77:17
Clearance by Ash Taylor.77:14
Centre by Jonathan Walters.77:00
Clearance made by Robert Huth.76:51
The ball is sent over by Abdulai Bell-Baggie.76:31
Ash Taylor manages to make a clearance.76:25
Free kick taken by Glenn Whelan.76:10 Substitution
Substitution Matthew Etherington comes on in place of Marko Arnautovic.75:44 Substitution
Substitution Jermaine Pennant leaves the field to be replaced by Jonathan Walters.
Foul by Cole Stockton on Jermaine Pennant, free kick awarded.73:32
Robert Huth makes a clearance.73:28
The ball is sent over by Tom Hateley.73:06 Substitution
Substitution James Rowe goes off and Abdulai Bell-Baggie comes on.71:53
Free kick taken by Owain Fon Williams.71:50
Marc Muniesa is ruled offside.69:41
Clearance by Ash Taylor.69:36
Jermaine Pennant produces a cross.68:49
Geoff Cameron makes a clearance.68:41
A cross is delivered by Tom Hateley.67:45
Shot by Chris Atkinson missed to the left of the target.65:07
Centre by Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.62:42
Free kick taken by Marko Arnautovic.62:37
Unfair challenge on Marc Muniesa by Chris Atkinson results in a free kick.61:05
Free kick crossed by Owain Fon Williams.60:57 Substitution
Substitution Oussama Assaidi is brought on as a substitute for Stephen Ireland.60:34
Unfair challenge on James Rowe by Marc Muniesa results in a free kick.59:10
Clearance by Adam Dugdale.59:04
Centre by Geoff Cameron.58:15
Chris Atkinson restarts play with the free kick.58:06
Foul by Marko Arnautovic on Chris Atkinson, free kick awarded.55:18
Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro takes a shot and cleared the crossbar.52:00
Free kick taken by Owain Fon Williams.51:52
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ash Taylor by Peter Crouch.51:39
Free kick crossed by Jermaine Pennant.51:16
Jermaine Pennant fouled by Danny Holmes, the ref awards a free kick.50:15
Free kick taken by Max Power.50:09
James Rowe fouled by Robert Huth, the ref awards a free kick.48:29
Geoff Cameron takes the chance to get an effort at goal and missed to the left of the net.45:01
The referee gets the second half underway.45:01 Substitution
Substitution (Tranmere) makes a substitution, with Danny Holmes coming on for Evan Horwood.45:00 +1:20 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.45:00 +1:12
Marko Arnautovic takes the free kick.45:00 +1:06
Foul by Adam Dugdale on Peter Crouch, free kick awarded.45:00 +0:10
Free kick taken by Evan Horwood.45:00 +0:03
Unfair challenge on Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro by Stephen Ireland results in a free kick.40:50
Corner from the right by-line taken by Max Power.39:19
Owain Fon Williams restarts play with the free kick.39:12
Marc Muniesa challenges Ryan Lowe unfairly and gives away a free kick.35:47
Shot by Marko Arnautovic cleared the net.33:42
Marko Arnautovic takes the chance to get an effort at goal.29:54
Jermaine Pennant crosses the ball in from the free kick.29:37
Marko Arnautovic fouled by Tom Hateley, the ref awards a free kick.28:19
Shot by Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro.27:59
Clearance made by Robert Huth.27:56
Corner taken by Chris Atkinson.27:39
The ball is swung over by Cole Stockton.26:16
Max Power restarts play with the free kick.26:09
James Rowe fouled by Wilson Palacios, the ref awards a free kick.25:28
Jermaine Pennant has an effort at goal. Ash Taylor gets a block in.25:22
Jermaine Pennant restarts play with the free kick.24:44
James Rowe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Glenn Whelan.22:53
Assist on the goal came from Marko Arnautovic.22:53 Goal scored
Goal! - Stephen Ireland - Tranmere 0 - 1 Stoke Stephen Ireland scores with their right foot. Tranmere 0-1 Stoke.22:18
Geoff Cameron produces a cross.20:33
Header at goal by Adam Dugdale goes right of the post.20:27
Clearance by Geoff Cameron.20:09
Free kick taken by Evan Horwood.19:54
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Evan Horwood by Peter Crouch.19:43
Peter Crouch manages to make a clearance.19:21
Free kick crossed by Tom Hateley.19:15
Unfair challenge on Ryan Lowe by Marc Muniesa results in a free kick.18:03
Stephen Ireland takes a shot and missed to the left of the target.17:14
Header at goal by Robert Huth. Owain Fon Williams safely holds on.16:57
Corner taken by Stephen Ireland.16:28
Stephen Ireland takes a shot.14:41
Clearance made by Ryan Lowe.14:36
Jermaine Pennant produces a cross.10:29
Glenn Whelan takes a shot and cleared the goal.9:57
Free kick taken by Ryan Shawcross.9:49
The referee penalises Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro for handball.9:05
The ball is delivered by James Rowe.4:17
Ryan Lowe has an effort at goal and missed to the left of the net.3:40
Marko Arnautovic takes a shot and missed to the right of the target.0:00
The referee gets the game underway.
Live data and text provided by our data suppliers