Chelsea stretched their 100% Premier League record to five games after breaking Stoke hearts with a last-gasp 2-1 win at the Britannia Stadium.
Carlo Ancelotti must have been living on his nerves as Stoke threw themselves into every challenge and looked like taking a point they will feel they deserved after taking the lead and then putting in a terrific defensive performance.
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However Chelsea kept plugging away and got their rewards deep into injury time when Florent Malouda squeezed home following a knock back from Nicolas Anelka.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis has assembled a team that battles and scratches for every 50-50 ball and it almost did the trick as they rattled Chelsea, especially in the first half. It is doubtful they have had many tougher physical tests and Ancelotti will feel they have come through their toughest test of the season so far.
Stoke lost two key players in the first half with James Beattie and then Thomas Sorensen going off injured but they refused to cave in and gave as good as they got.
Chelsea got a taste of what was to come after two minutes when Ashley Cole lost possession when he was harried by Dave Kitson. The striker raced on but his cross was poor and Jose Bosingwa was able to clear with ease.
Chelsea responded and Drogba tested Sorensen from distance after the ball had been played back to him by Salomon Kalou.
However Beattie should have put Stoke ahead in the ninth minute when capitalising on a Branislav Ivanovic slip and going clean on goal, but he opted to shoot quickly and scuffed his effort.
In the process he landed awkwardly on his ankle and was stretchered off in considerable discomfort. He was replaced by Ricardo Fuller in the 11th minute.
Chelsea carved out a chance in the 23 minute when Bosingwa surged forward but Dean Whitehead made a good block and it was Stoke who made the breakthrough in the 32nd minute.
Glenn Whelan swung in a cross from the right and skipper Abdoulaye Faye was the first to react inside the area to power a header beyond Petr Cech, who was stranded in no-mans land after coming and then going back.
It was a test of character now for Ancelotti’s men and the atmosphere was electric, but Stoke lost their second player of the half in the 41st minute with Sorensen replaced by Steve Simonsen after appearing to pull a muscle.
Eight minutes of added time were awarded due to the two delays and Drogba pulled Chelsea level around halfway through them with a superb shot into the top corner after superbly turning Faye following Frank Lampard’s tidy through-ball.
Chelsea then almost took the lead a minute into the second half but Drogba hit his effort high over the bar after Michael Ballack had nodded the ball on.
They were beginning to spray their passes about and asking questions of the home side but Stoke are traditionally dangerous from set-pieces and there was a moment of danger for the visitors in the 57th minute when Whelan delivered a free-kick into the area that was not taken advantage of.
A minute later Kitson had a great chance when he peeled away from his marker after Whelan delivered the corner, but the striker’s header went straight into Cech’s arms.
Robert Huth almost scored against his old club in the 63rd minute but he sent his effort from inside the six-yard area over the top following another good corner from Whelan.
From then on, it was all Chelsea. Ancelotti brought on Anelka for Kalou in a bid to try and get the victory and Stoke were forced to back pedal in the 68th minute when Bosingwa raced to the edge of the area, only to drag his effort wide.
Chelsea stepped up the pace even further and Drogba thumped in a shot from an acute angle after 76 minutes only for Faye to make a brave block.
Drogba then whipped in a free-kick from 25 yards, only for Simonsen to react well and turn his effort around the post.
It was all hands to the pump now for Stoke as the visitors went in search of fifth successive victory but they seemed to be frustrated only for Malouda to have the last word with an effort that Simonsen will feel he should have saved.