But, considering the recent bad press the club have received in relation to their recruitment policy, the win provides them with a timely boost.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis might though take consolation from the way his side defended throughout and, although they drop out of the top six, their performance suggested a promising season ahead.
Attempting to guide his club to a first league win against Chelsea since 1975, Pulis opted to dispense with his trusted 4-4-2 formation in favour of a 5-3-2, which was designed to combat marauding full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole.
And, although Chelsea dominated possession in the opening stages, Stoke rarely looked in danger of conceding.
Perhaps considering Tuesday's Champions League opener against Porto, Ancelotti made four changes to the team that beat Burnley last time out and Chelsea struggled to establish any sort of rhythm early on.
Pulis desperately disappointed
They might have gone behind inside 10 minutes when Branislav Ivanovic inexplicably diverted a long ball into the path of James Beattie.
Beattie, returning from three weeks out with a knee injury, raced through on goal but dragged his shot horribly wide and, to make matters worse, fell awkwardly in the process and had to be substituted.
Chelsea had been warned and, despite enjoying a period of sustained pressure, they were soon punished.
Whelan collected possession on the right and sent in a hopeful left-footed cross which Cech came for but then withdrew, allowing Faye to head home.
Chelsea responded positively to the set-back and continued to take the game to a Stoke side who were defending ominously deep.
Cole shot straight at Thomas Sorensen from an acute angle and Jon Mikel Obi had a thumping drive bravely blocked by former Blues centre-half Robert Huth.
Injuries to Beattie, Cole and Sorensen saw eight minutes of stoppage time added at the end of the first half, and Chelsea used it as an opportunity to strike.
Ancelotti praises Chelsea strength
Lampard was able to get away from Whelan and slide a delicious ball through to Drogba, who rolled Faye and unleashed a thunderous first-time left-footed drive across substitute goalkeeper Steve Simonsen and into the top corner.
Chelsea started the second half as they finished the first and, were it not for Stoke's resilience, the Blues might have seen their dominance reflected on the scoresheet.
Salomon Kalou came within inches of connecting with a Malouda centre and Drogba blasted over the bar after Faye hesitated with his clearance.
A temporary lull ensued but Stoke almost regained the lead when Huth rose above Michael Ballack and headed just over from Whelan's corner.
But it was all Chelsea from that moment on, Lampard and Michael Essien squandered a couple of chances each before Drogba had a goal-bound effort blocked by Faye.
The visitors were flooding forward but found themselves repelled time and again until Simonsen failed to keep out a fizzing Malouda effort at the death.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "The result is disappointing for us because we battled really hard and defended well.
"They had a lot of possession second half and got a lot of bodies forward. We have given them a game and made them work hard.
"We haven't got the quality Chelsea have. I hold my hands up to that. They are a very good side.
"But our attitude and commitment and everyone's willingness to work will take us a long way."
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti: "We got what we deserved because we tried to attack all the time. I am very happy because it was a difficult game.
"We maintained good control throughout the match and that was important. We applied a lot of pressure and were rewarded for our play.
"We know all about Stoke and were not surprised by the way they play. We were ready for a physical match and knew how to deal with the long ball.
"To be top of the league is very important. We have good confidence in our play and a very good atmosphere in the dressing room."
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