City took full control shortly after the interval, taking the lead through Yaya Toure and a stunner from Carlos Tevez before Samir Nasri increased their lead to seemingly bury the contest.
A spill by goalkeeper Costel Pentilimon allowed substitute Ryan Bertrand to offer the Londoners hope, but Roberto Mancini's men held on to begin their first campaign as Premier League champions in winning ways.
League champions City, playing in their dark red change strip, controlled large periods of the first half and had the first decent chance after three minutes when part-time golf caddy Tevez curled a 20-yard free-kick in towards the near post, where Petr Cech was able to parry.
Eden Hazard, the big new recruit for the European champions, drew the ire of City supporters early on by going to ground rather easily but there was nothing soft about a clip he received from Stefan Savic 10 minutes in which belatedly earned the defender a booking after a lengthy advantage.
A decent early ball in from the right by James Milner halfway through the opening period was met well by the run of Sergio Aguero, but the Argentine’s header did not match up and glanced across the face of goal.
Chelsea broke away immediately, and Ramires’ low driven cross was mis-hit towards goal by Frank Lampard, who nonetheless forced a save from stand-in goalkeeper Pantilimon, who was in the side due to a back injury to Joe Hart.
Ramires continued to serve as Chelsea’s lead attacking threat as the FA Cup winners began to push their opponents while Hazard grafted to keep the City back three on their toes, and with five minutes left in the half they made the breakthrough.
Skipping past Savic inside the ‘D’, Ramires strived to tee the Belgian up only for Hazard to let it run to Torres, who took a touch before lifting the opener above the committed Pantilimon and in.
Despite looking the better side, the Manchester club were rocked by going behind and were almost caught out by Torres again. Savic appeared to bring the Spaniard down, but a certain second yellow was prevented when referee Kevin Friend awarded the foul in City’s favour.
And straight up the other end of the pitch Kolarov was sent sprawling on the left wing by Ivanovic’s ill-advised lunge which earned the Serbian a straight red.
A mental minute had seen the London supporters experience ecstasy and frustration, and 45 minutes defending their lead a man down against the Premier League kingpins loomed.
They lasted for eight of those 45, as the numbers game began to tell and Toure began a move he would finish personally after John Terry could only prod a clearance into his path on the edge of the area.
The Ivorian’s rocket-fuelled low drive was topped just five minutes later, after Ashley Cole had already denied Milner a chance of a second, when Tevez cut inside two defenders before unleashing an unstoppable curling drive beyond a static Cech.
With the man advantage as well as the lead, the Citizens were able to take total control of the match with assured possession play but on 64 minutes they showed just what would happen if an opening presented itself, Tevez this time teeing up Kolarov to drive a cross in for Nasri to deftly flick in on the volley for 3-1.
At times it appeared the match would finish an exhibition, but Kolarov and skipper Vincent Kompany’s cracks at a fourth were both thwarted after Nasri mis-hit a golden chance for a brace.
And with 11 minutes left, a now-rare Chelsea surge forward, pioneered by substitute Daniel Sturridge, ended with Pantilimon spilling the Great Britain striker’s speculative drive and allowing fellow replacement Bertrand to tap home what proved to be a consolation.
The two were each booked for a subsequent tug-of-war over the ball, but City would shake off a period of nerviness to hold onto their lead and claim what they hope will be their first silverware of many in 2012-13.