Youri Djorkaeff celebrated his first appearance since September with a vital and spectacular contribution as Bolton recorded their first-ever Premiership victory over a woeful Everton.
The Wanderers' steady climb up the table has been achieved without the influence of the French World Cup winner and, even yesterday, with his calf injury fully cleared up, he was limited to starting as a substitute. His part in Bolton's second goal, which may yet be credited to Kevin Nolan, and the all-round class he showed after coming on, however, amount to one of the reasons why Bolton should not be struggling to avoid relegation this season.
On this showing, Everton, who slipped into the relegation zone as Bolton rose into the top half of the table, are far more likely to have that problem. "I wouldn't have said it was a poor performance from Everton. I'd say it was a brilliant performance from Bolton,'' said the Wanderers' manager Sam Allardyce. "That's our fourth Premiership game without conceding a goal and we all know where that will take us."
Everton's David Moyes admitted that this side had lacked the fighting spirit for which they have been noted under his stewardship. "You have to give Bolton a lot of credit," he said. "I thought they played very well, but we weren't in it. Bolton probably won all the individual battles. They did us in every area of the field."
Bolton, on their way to a fifth competitive game unbeaten, started brightly with Jay-Jay Okocha's wonderful cross being headed just too high by Kevin Davies. Okocha is back to something near his best and the drive of Per Frandsen and Nolan alongside him made Bolton close to irresistible in midfield.
If there was a surprise it was that it took them 26 minutes to take the lead. It stemmed from a long throw-in from Okocha, which Ivan Campo headed back into the middle and Nigel Martyn could only punch weakly to Frandsen, who headed into the unguarded net.
Stelios Giannakopoulos was injured in the build-up to that goal, but, well though the Greek winger had played, it was a blessing in disguise when Djorkaeff came on after half an hour. The inter-play between him and the equally skilful Okocha immediately looked threatening and it was from the Nigerian's cross that Davies headed just wide.
Everton, for whom Wayne Rooney was making no impact at all, had produced no threat other than a couple of early thrusts from Thomasz Radzinski, dealt with by a solid Wanderers defence. They have not won away from home all season and it was easy to see why.
Within a minute of the second half, this game was effectively beyond them as well. Frandsen hooked the ball towards Djorkaeff, who controlled it superbly on his chest and took off horizontally to lash it towards goal. The fact that it deflected off Nolan on its way gives the two players grounds for an argument over who should be credited with it, but Allardyce paid tribute to the Frenchman for making it possible. "It was a bit of a blow with Stelios had to come off, but being able to replace him with Youri Djorkaeff was a delight,'' he said.
If any aspect of Bolton's performance could be criticised it was that all their pretty football after that - and there was plenty of it - failed to produce further goals. Everton's lack of threat was summed up, however, by the way that their best effort of the whole match - a drive past the post from the former Bolton defender, Alan Stubbs - came 15 minutes from the end.
On this sort of listless form they will find it more difficult to get out of the bottom three than they have to get into it.Reuse content