Michael Ricketts' goals kept Bolton in the Premiership last season and, if his confidence continues to return at yesterday's rate of progress, they may do so again.
Ricketts' two goals proved crucial in a game where both defences took the principle of goodwill to all men a little too literally. "He was back on song and there's no one more pleased than me – except perhaps him,'' Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, said as Wanderers celebrated their first home win since 2 September.
"It was a great game of football and I'm just glad to be at the right end of the result for once,'' Allardyce added.
There was ridiculous amount of action crammed into the first 10 minutes, much of it revolving around Bolton's Jamaican winger Ricardo Gardner. It was he who robbed Kieron Dyer in the fourth minute and was then allowed to run across a retreating Newcastle defence to square the ball for Jay-Jay Okocha, whose thumping right-footer flew into the top corner.
Gardner's next involvement was not as positive. He failed to track back quickly enough with Dyer as the Newcastle midfielder chased Nolberto Solano's through ball. Dyer was able to play it into the box for Shearer to ram in for his customary goal against Bolton.
The response was instantaneous. Steven Caldwell fouled Ricketts, well outside the area and at an angle, but Gardner's curling left-foot shot found the same corner as Okocha's goal.
Even after that early flurry, neither defence looked secure. Dyer had the ball in the net, with Shola Ameobi already flagged for offside, but most of the chances otherwise went to an enterprising Bolton. Ricketts, starting a game for the first time since 2 November, headed just wide from Anthony Barness's cross and almost got a touch to Per Frandsen's inviting through ball.
Gudni Bergsson had a header admirably saved from Youri Djorkaeff's free-kick and then, in first-half injury time, another free-kick led to Bolton's third. This time Djorkaeff's attempt to put the ball into the area was blocked, but Frandsen, excellent along with Okocha in midfield, hooked it in from the right and Ricketts out-jumped Andy Griffin to power home his header.
Newcastle then had two decent chances, a volley over the top from Shearer and Jussi Jaaskelainen's dive at the feet of Ameobi, before Ricketts seemed to have guaranteed Bolton their festive cheer. Again the old sharpness was in evidence as he latched on to Gary Speed's back pass and placed it coolly past Shay Given. But there was no opportunity to relax when Ameobi's shot sneaked into the net via a deflection off Dyer and another of the late equalisers that has bedevilled Bolton at home was beckoning when Shearer smashed in a 30-yard shot from a free-kick.
Bolton, with Okocha's experience to the fore, managed to play out time, leaving Sir Bobby Robson a frustrated man at his team's continued inability to defend effectively. "It was a great game, but we won't get into Europe playing like that,'' he said.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen 6; Barness 5, Bergsson 5, Whitlow 5, Charlton 5; Pedersen 6 (Facey 5, 75), Okocha 8, Frandsen 8, Gardner 6; Djorkaeff 6 (Nolan 6, 65), Ricketts 7. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Campo, Tofting.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given 5; Griffin 5, O'Brien 5, Caldwell 5, Hughes 5; Solano 7 (Jenas 5, 71), Dyer 6, Speed 5, Robert 5; Ameobi 5 (Lua Lua 5, 71), Shearer 7. Substitutes not used: Bellamy, Harper (gk), Dabizas.
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield) 5.
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