Despite Chelsea's dominance having Stoke on the back foot for majority of the game, the Potters had a few chances to go ahead in the first half, the best being Glenn Whelan's free kick being flicked onto the woodwork by Jon Walters in the 20th minute.
Stoke looked likely to hold on for a draw after valiant defending throughout the match but was denied by a rare Cole strike - his first goal in the Premier League for two years - due reward for the Blues after a tiring outing going at Asmir Begovic's goalmouth.
Petr Cech - 7.5
He was the busier goalkeeper in the first half and dealt with Stoke's aerial bombardment well - no easy task, as many Premier League goalkeepers will attest to.
Branislav Ivanovic - 7
The Serb overlapped on the attack well and kept his flank well defensively, forcing Michael Kightly to push inwards to look for the ball.
David Luiz - 6.5
Luiz dealt with Crouch effectively and was ever-present to clear the threat in defence. The Brazilian also helped out in attack with frequent forays upfield, making use of Stoke's lack of pace up front.
However, his performance was soured by a poor two-legged challenge on Jon Walters late in the game which he then walked away from the referee.
Gary Cahill - 7
In the absence of John Terry, Cahill took over the mantle of being the calming presence at the back. He was always alert to the ball in his own box and tidied up defensively with quiet efficiency.
Ashley Cole - 7.5
He was hardly tested defensively as Stoke preferred to send their crosses in early and Cole made use of the opportunity to help in the attack instead - to good effect given that he popped up in the box and saved his team with a late goal.
Ramires - 7.5
The Brazilian was key in stopping Stoke's counter-attacks with his industrious running in the midfield, frequently drifting in from behind to dispossess Charlie Adam, Steven Nzonzi and Jon Walters.\
Jon Obi Mikel (Off 80') - 6
Mikel sat in front of his defence well and provided a physical presence but he gave the ball away in his own half too frequently - a big no-no if Chelsea were to play against a side with a more clinical attack
Juan Mata (Off 88') - 8
The Spaniard was one of Chelsea's most creative players throughout, constantly flicking in and around the Stoke penalty box, acting as a conduit for his side's attack. His touch to set up Cole's goal was a typically delightful touch from him.
Oscar - 8
The expectations on Oscar must be high after his midweek virtuoso performance against Juventus. The youngster followed it up with an excellent outing this time, constantly pressing the Stoke defence into hasty clearances and also finding pockets of space to create chances for his side.
Eden Hazard (Off 61') - 6.5
Hazard had a quiet match - mainly due to the fact that the Stoke defence sat deep and denied him space to run into.
Fernando Torres - 7
Torres had a good or a bad performance, depending on how you see it.
The good - he was always under the Stoke defenders' skins, never giving them a moment's peace. Also, his movements in the box always dragged the defenders around the box, creating space for his other team mates.
The bad - his touches were poor and he hardly had a chance on goal, but that was somewhat expected, given Stoke's strong defence.
Victor Moses (On 61') - 7.5
He came on and added another dimension to Chelsea, staying wide and stretching Stoke's defence.
Frank Lamprd (On 80') - N/A
John Terry (On 88') - N/A
Asmir Begovic - 7.5
He was under siege for most of the second half and performed admirably. He should also be credited for taking charge of his defence to help himself and keep Chelsea's attack at bay. He could not do much for Cole's late winner.
Geoff Cameron - 7.5
The American summer signing showed no signs of needing time or matches to adapting to the Premier League, shackling Hazard to a quiet outing and providing a steady presence on his flank.
Ryan Shawcross - 7.5
Shawcross took charge of his box like and excellent general would and put his body on the line, sliding in to deny Chelsea with several last-ditch challenges.
Robert Huth - 7
The former Chelsea player was excellent against his former club, sticking to Fernando Torres and denying him space and time.
Marc Wilson - 6.5
Wilson was never really given a tough time, given that Chelsea played narrowly on his flank. He even had time to go up front to force Cech into a save in the first half.
Jon Walters - 8
Walters came close to scoring when his header rocketed off the crossbar in the first half and his link-up play with Crouch was superb. He was always full of running and tracked back frequently as well.
Glenn Whelan - 7
He was constantly harrying Chelsea's midfield but was overwhelmed by the sheer quality of Chelsea's players. His deliveries up for Crouch and Walters to chase was excellent, though, and was the source of many Stoke counter attacks.
Charlie Adam (Off 63') - 4
Adam had little presence in the first half, giving the ball away needlessly while not contributing defensively. However, he had a marginally better second half (which isn't saying much, actually), exploiting the space behind Ivanovic when the right back goes up. His lack of speed was easily exposed, which led to him being taken off for Michael Owen, who could be said to be faster than Adam.
Steven Nzonzi - 7
The former Blackburn man was out of his depth in the opening stages but grew into his role as the holding midfielder as the game wore on. He managed to shake Ramires off and bring the ball up for his side well.
Michael Kightly (Off 70') - 6.5
Stoke's speediest player and looked dangerous on the break in the opening stages but faded thereafter when Ivanovic grew wise to his presence.
Peter Crouch (Off 74') - 7
The gangly striker was dominant in the air and was always a thorn in the Chelsea's defence, holding the ball up well, although the lack of a partner meant that he could not do much in terms of finishing.
Michael Owen (On 63) - 6
Despite being on the pitch for close to half an hour, Owen had little presence and did not change much for his side.
Matthew Etherington (On 70') - 7.5
He came on and injected pace to a flagging Stoke attack. He also contributed defensively with a last-ditch challenge to deny Moses.
Kenwyne Jones (On 74')
A like for like change for Crouch, Jones continued to provide the physical presence in the box but did not have the chance to influence the game.