The evaluation of the interfacial adhesion of coating system has always been a rough task. In this paper, a special testing method of cross-sectional indentation is applied on a model coating system, i.e. electroplated chromium on a steel substrate which is generally regarded as an example of materials pair with strong adhesion. Based on fractography analysis with SEM and interfacial stress simulation with FEM, it is found that interfacial shear stress may induce coating spalling. More interestingly, spalling location is sensitive to substrate pretreatment process. This shows the feasibility of cross-sectional indentation to distinguish interfacial strength at a high level.