The visitors were up against it as early as the third minute when midfielder Charlie Barnett was sent off for a nasty challenge on Vale left-back Dan Jones.
But Micky Adams' team struggled to get into their stride and Accrington twice came within inches of taking the lead.
Peter Murphy's 24th minute shot was cleared off the line by Vale skipper Doug Loft and a right-wing corner by Laurence Wilson struck the crossbar two minutes later.
It took until the 44th minute before visiting keeper Paul Rachubka was seriously tested when he tipped over an effort from Tom Pope.
But Vale clicked into gear from the start of the second-half and goals in the 50th and 53rd minutes by home debutants Hughes and Darren Purse effectively ended the contest.
Hughes used his experience to race onto a lofted pass from Ryan Burge and beat Rachuka with a controlled right-foot volley from 12 yards, sending his shot into the top right-hand corner of the keeper's net.
And Purse was left with an empty net to roll the ball into from 10 yards after Rachubka could only block a fierce shot from Loft into his path.
Hughes added a third in the 66th minute when he beat Accrington's offside trap from Richard Duffy's pass, evaded the advancing Rachubka and rolled the ball home.