Stoke boss Tony Pulis felt his side more than matched Premier League rivals Arsenal until the introduction of Robin van Persie.
The Potters had frustrated Arsenal for more than an hour until Dutch star Van Persie stepped off the bench to fire a quickfire double and secure a 3-1 win for the home side.
Pulis' gameplan saw Stoke match Arsenal's midfield three in a bid to contain their creativity in central areas.
It worked as the Gunners created few opportunities, with Peter Crouch cancelling out Gervinho's opener.
But Stoke, who made six changes from Thursday's UEFA Europa League win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, eventually ran out of steam.
Pulis said: "We thought we did really well until they got the second goal.
"But the second and third goals were poor goals to give away.
"They had a top team with some excellent players so to have people like Van Persie and Arshavin on the bench is fine.
"That's what you need and that's why they are where they are.
"I thought our lads were very good for an hour then the goal goes in.
"Then we looked a bit tired."
Pulis lamented his side's inability to offer more support to the isolated Crouch, but praised the quality of their equaliser.
A well-worked move saw Glenn Whelan's deep free-kick headed across goal by Ryan Shawcross before former Spurs striker Crouch pounced.
Pulis added: "It was something we worked on and set pieces are something we work on regularly.
"It was well executed, a great ball from Glenn and a great header from Ryan."