Despite sitting on top of the Second Division, Stoke suffered the embarrassment of elimination by Macclesfield, a non-League outfit until 15 months ago.
A lack of guile and the absence of atmosphere in the Britannia Stadium conspired against Stoke, whose cause was further hindered by the dismissal of Graham Kavanagh early in the second half. Peter Thorne gave them victory on the night from close range after 79 minutes, but Macclesfield held on to earn a possible crack at Premiership opposition.
Brian Little, the Stoke manager, may have paused to reflect, as he saw the thousands of empty seats, that barely two years ago the same competition in its Coca-Cola incarnation saw him triumph with Aston Villa at Wembley.
Little had called upon his new charges to be patient, but they were unable to make inroads into Macclesfield's 3-1 lead from the first leg until it was too late.
His opposite number, Sammy McIlroy, made a tactical switch after Saturday's 2-0 Second Division defeat at Stoke, opting to play with a single striker and deploying an extra man in midfield. McIlroy, a former Stoke player, was nevertheless true to his word that Macclesfield would not simply sit on their advantage.
John Askey, the club's front-runner who supports Stoke, sent a flashing header narrowly wide during the early cut and thrust. Had he added to his two goals from the first meeting, Stoke would have needed to score four to go through, and the escape served to encourage them to step up the tempo.
Thorne twice came close to cutting the deficit with headers, while David Oldfield burst through two challenges for a shot which was deflected too close to Ryan Price's goal for McIlroy's comfort.
Stoke's scattered support responded noisily and cautions for Askey and Steve Wood reflected the pressure they mounted on Macclesfield before the interval.
Stoke's task became harder still when they were reduced to 10 men within 10 minutes of the restart. Kavanagh, who had been booked on the stroke of half-time following an incident involving Martin McDonald, lunged two- footed at the same player and was shown the red card for a second bookable offence. The Macclesfield midfielder was also cautioned, but even Thorne's scrappy late winner could not stir Stoke to greater things.
Stoke City (3-5-2): Muggleton; Whittle, Robinson, Woods; Short (Tweed, 78), Pickering, Kavanagh, Oldfield, Small (Wallace, 61); Thorne, Crowe (Sturridge, 68). Substitutes not used: Lightbourne, Fraser.
Macclesfield Town (4-5-1): Price; Tinson, Sodje, Payne, Ingram; Durkan, Wood, Sorvel, McDonald, Whittaker (Barclay, 90); Askey (Tomlinson, 82). Substitutes not used: Howarth, Hitchen, Morgan.
Referee: D Pugh (Wirral).
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