Manchester City preserved their perfect home record but were given the scare of their season so far by Gary Megson's improving Wanderers. Bolton deserved to take something from this match after bouncing back from Rolando Bianchi's early goal to lead by half-time. The two goals after the break that put City back in command both had an element of luck about them, before Kelvin Etuhu scored his first for City at the finish.
Sven Goran Eriksson believed it was a change of tactics and attitude rather than luck that saw his side salvage their ninth straight home victory. "We didn't play well in the second part of the first half, but we talked at half-time and they came out like a different team. I told them they looked like a losing team and if they looked like that they wouldn't win the game."
Eriksson made his contribution by switching Darius Vassell, who had tormented Ricardo Gardner in the first half, to play alongside Bianchi as a second striker. In the end, it was getting more players into the area that produced the vital chances a case perhaps of a team manufacturing their own luck.
Megson, a Mancunian realist if ever there was one, refused to blame anyone else for his side's misfortunes. "We were every bit as good as City in possession, maybe a bit better, but we've chucked away four goals," he said. "We've chucked away what should have been a good result for us. We've let in eight goals in our last two away games. That's an absolute nonsense at the level we are at and if we don't put it right we will go down."
That over-generosity began with City's first goal after seven minutes, when Gardner completely missed what should have been a routine clearance to allow Vassell to sneak in behind him. He should have scored himself, but at least had the presence of mind when the ball came back to him off Jussi Jaaskelainen to square it for Michael Johnson to set up Bianchi.
Vassell could have put them two goals in arrears when he jumped to meet Michael Ball's cross and headed wide, before Nicolas Anelka, from an almost impossible angle, skimmed the post at the other end. The Frenchman might have done better just before the half hour when Kevin Davies knocked down Nicky Hunt's searching long cross, but this time his shot was just outside the upright.
A minute later, however, Bolton were level. It was clever interplay between Anelka and El-Hadji Diouf that began the move, Davies played in the crucial ball and Diouf was there to volley home his first Premier League goal of the season. Vassell then got away from Gardner once again to win City the first of a series of corners and they thought they should have had a penalty when Bianchi went down in a heap.
Having survived that little flurry, the resilient Wanderers took the lead five minutes before half-time. Gardner got something of his own back by skinning Vedran Corluka, Richard Dunne could not cut out his low cross and Kevin Nolan, a player who has rediscovered his scoring touch from midfield, was there to drive it home with the outside of his right boot.
It was a shock to the system for City and Danny Guthrie was close to making it three before half-time arrived. That lead lasted just three minutes into the second half, though, before City opened them up down the right and the Nigerian defender Etuhu pulled the ball back for Dietmar Hamann. His shot might have beaten Jaaskelainen, but it was a deflection off the head of the unfortunate Lubomir Michalik that made sure.
All square, but Diouf could have put Bolton back in the lead straight away but headed wide, before Andreas Isaksson made the save of the match to deny Anelka's close-range volley. At the other end, the impressive young Johnson hit the post. Bolton had made the better chances, but it was City who took one. Martin Petrov got away from his marker and, although he was forced too wide for a shot, his cross was back-heeled by Vassell.
As Bolton forged forward looking for an equaliser in time added on, Etuhu got a fourth for City to badly distort the scoreline, but the home side knew they had been in a gripping match. Bolton's revival should not be derailed by this.