Peter Crouch made the most of only his third start of the season by claiming a clinical hat-trick to ease Tottenham into the last 16 of the Carling Cup.

Crouch made the most of his recall to the Spurs starting XI in the 14th minute when he dispatched Gareth Bale's deep cross with a fine volley and Jermain Defoe effectively put Preston to bed with a predatory header seven minutes before half-time.

With 13 minutes remaining, Crouch tapped home Aaron Lennon's low cross before Preston pulled a goal back in the 83rd minute through substitute Chris Brown, only for Spurs substitute Robbie Keane to add a fourth and Crouch cheekily completed his hat-trick in injury time.

At Stamford Bridge Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole returned from his long-term knee injury to help defeat QPR 1-0 and send the Barclays Premier League leaders through.

The 27-year-old, named by manager Carlo Ancelotti as skipper for the evening, was playing in his first match since January and set up Salomon Kalou's winner at Stamford Bridge.

Ahead of the tie, the future of Flavio Briatore as QPR's owner has been uncertain following his role in Formula One's "crashgate" scandal - but Jim Magilton's men could not give him something to smile about despite putting the hosts under pressure at times.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Agbonlahor ensured Aston Villa avoided more Carling Cup humiliation with his third-minute goal sufficient to overcome Cardiff 1-0 at Villa Park.

Villa had crashed out of the competition to lower-league opposition in three of the previous four seasons, but Agbonlahor continued his hot scoring streak after linking up with fellow striker John Carew to ensure James Milner's missed penalty would not cost them.

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