Kenwyne Jones scored a hat-trick as Stoke City saw off a spirited Walsall in the Capital One Cup.
The striker pounced on a sloppy backpass by Sam Mantom to fire the hosts in front and then doubled the advantage on the half hour.
But the Saddlers hit back early in the second half through Ashley Hemmings and were the better side before Jones sealed it for the hosts with a late third.
Dean Smith’s men may be out of the cup but they have plenty to be proud of after an at times brilliant display against their Premier League hosts.
It was a harsh lesson for the Saddlers, who arguably made far fewer errors in the first half but were severely punished by Jones for the two they made.
Stoke’s passing was at best sloppy in the first period but when they gave it away the Saddlers could not make it count.
But in the second period Walsall were by far the better side, scored a wonderful goal and with a little more luck, would have got a deserved equaliser.
It was only the finishing of Jones which ultimately proved the difference.
Andy Taylor made his first start of the season after his return from injury, coming in for Mal Benning at left-back.
Nicky Featherstone replaced Adam Chambers in midfield, while the most notable change came up front as Romaine Sawyers came in for Milan Lalkovic, the latter rested because of a hamstring injury.
Any thoughts the home side would name a weak side were proved incorrect as Mark Hughes named Charlie Adam, Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth in his starting line-up.
But it was the visitors who made the brighter start, with Sawyers and strike partner Craig Westcarr harrying the home defenders.
Chances were few and far between and a blocked Sawyers shot as the only notable effort from either side in the opening 15 minutes.
But it was better than the hosts, who had failed to muster an attempt before they were gifted the opener by Mantom’s awful error.
The Walsall midfielder’s pass fell between James Chambers and Paul Downing on the edge of the box and Jones nipped in, stole the ball and blasted a low shot past visiting keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Jones’ second on the half hour was even simpler but was caused by yet more questionable defending. He and Butler both rose for a Pennant corner and when the ball was not cleared, the big striker reacted quickest to stab the ball into the roof of the net from four yards out.
The Saddlers searched for a way back before the break and Westcarr shot wide but chances remained at a premium for both sides.
Stoke began the second half looking like they wanted to put the contest beyond doubt and O’Donnell denied Charlie Adam brilliantly with his legs in the opening minutes, before substitute Marc Wilson drilled over from distance.
But the Saddlers came right back into it with a superbly worked goal. Mantom raced onto a through ball from Baxendale and, spotting the run of Hemmings, crossed for the former Wolves man to slide home from eight yards out.
Stoke were suddenly rocking and Robert Huth almost gifted them a leveller with a woeful backpass but though Westcarr beat Sorenson to the ball, his heavy first touch took the ball out for a goal kick.
Andy Wilkinson had a goal ruled out for offside for the hosts but it was Walsall who were now looking dangerous with each attack.
James Chambers wasted a great chance when he blasted over from eight yards out following a corner, while Jones deflected a Featherstone shot over the bar.
Huth also had a goal disallowed seconds before Jones eased some severely frayed Stoke nerves, latching on to a Pennant through ball before finishing past O’Donnell.