Owen Coyle admits he is as puzzled as anyone as to how Aston Villa failed to appreciate Gary Cahill's talent when they sold him to Bolton three years ago. The Bolton manager is resigned to losing his 25-year-old centre-half sooner rather than later – with Chelsea apparently leading a queue of suitors – yet Coyle's predecessor, Gary Megson, was able to land Cahill for a modest £5m when Villa let him go.
The decision came back to undermine the Midlands side on Saturday, when Cahill compensated for Bolton's shaky performance with a goal in each half as Coyle's team twice came from behind to expose Villa's habit of wasting winning positions when away.
The first was a routine defender's set-piece goal to cancel out Darren Bent's early tap-in for Villa, but Cahill's second had more to it, involving the reflexes, flexibility and technical skills of an accomplished forward as he reacted to Brad Friedel's excellent stop from another header to give the Villa keeper no chance with his follow-up.
Coyle accepts Cahill may be ready now to move on again. "He will outgrow Bolton and when he does go it will be with our blessing. He wants to show he is good enough to play for anybody, and I think he is."
Bolton did not look particularly secure at the back at times. They were constantly stretched by Villa's wide players, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton, and Bent could have had a first-half hat-trick.
As it was, after Downing had missed a sitter, Albrighton restored Villa's lead after Cahill's first equaliser and had Ashley Young not failed from the penalty spot after being brought down by David Wheater the visitors could have been 3-1 up with 19 minutes left.
But Bolton are not short of self-belief and not only levelled again but found a winner four minutes from time when Ivan Klasnic cashed in on a Kevin Davies knock-down.
Scorers: Bolton Cahill 45, 75, Klasnic 86. Aston Villa Bent 15, Albrighton 64.
Subs: Bolton M Davies 6 (Muamba, 60), Lee 7 (M Petrov, 60), Klasnic 7 (Elmander, 67). Villa S Petrov 5 (Delph, 77), Agbonlahor 6 (Albrighton, 83). Booked: Bolton Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Wheater, Holden, Elmander. Villa Clark, Walker.
Man of the match Cahill. Match rating 8/10.
Possession Bolton 56% Villa 44%.
Attempts on target Bolton 9 Villa 6.
Referee K Friend (Leicestershire). Att 22,533.