Managers are fond of saying that the season is a marathon and not a sprint, but whatever the length of the race, it helps to get off to a good start.
As they lined up in August, these two teams were widely tipped to be in the bunch stuck at the back of the field, but Bolton got off to a flyer.
If they had capitalised on their first-half dominance, and if a superbly struck effort by Henrik Pedersen six minutes after Birmingham had equalised had not been ruled offside, they could have been looking down from third place in the Premiership this morning.
Instead, Birmingham salvaged an unlikely point, which at least meant they dropped no further off the pace as the stagger unwinds and the season enters the long winter straight.
"If we can't hang on to a one-goal lead we are going to start drawing too many games that we are in a position to win," said Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager.
Bolton have now drawn their last three Premiership games, and, although the previous two were against Manchester United and Arsenal, Allardyce does not believe that is good enough. "If we keep doing that we are going to throw away our good start to the season and end up in the bottom six," he said.
Allardyce was right to be annoyed. His side rarely allowed Birmingham out of their own half in the first period, but all they had to show for it was a well-struck volley from their Tunisian full-back Radhi Jaidi which their three front runners could not match, despite a succession of chances.
They were made to pay early in the second half when Birmingham had a five-minute purple patch which ended with Muzzy Izzet scoring his first goal for the club when he turned in Jamie Clapham's square pass via the underside of the crossbar.
"I never reveal what is said in the dressing-room but I wasn't happy with what I saw in the first half. But in the second half I was delighted with them and in the end we might have nicked it," said Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, whose face bore the scratches and bruises inflicted in an attack by would-be car thieves outside his home in the early hours.
It would have been unjust to Bolton if Emile Heskey's last-minute effort had grazed the inside rather than the outside of the post, though Bruce could not have complained had Bolton put the match beyond them in a first half in which his side played as if they scarcely knew each other. "I've now realised that bringing five or six new players into the side at once doesn't work," Bruce said. "But we now have a bigger and better squad than we've ever had and we will get better."
They will have to if they are to turn around a season which is already begin to look like a struggle for survival.
And Allardyce will have to find a way of giving his strike force a cutting edge if Wanderers are not to join them in the usual sprint finish to avoid the drop.
Goals: Jaidi (16) 1-0; Izzet (49) 1-1.
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Gardner; Nolan, Campo, Speed; Diouf (Giannakopoulos, 65), Davies (Ferdinand, 79), Pedersen. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Cesar, Hierro.
Birmingham City (4-5-1): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham; Johnson, Savage, Izzet (Gray, 88), Clemence, Gronkjaer (Dunn, 78); Heskey. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Yorke, Morrison.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Bolton: Jaidi. B'ham: Savage.
Man of the match: Jaidi.
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