In an offering that was no Boxing Day entertainment pageant, Newcastle United struck twice inside two minutes after the interval to claim a first win since Bonfire Night.
Alan Pardew, the Newcastle manager, said: "We are delighted because we put ourselves under pressure with the West Brom result [losing 3-2 at home] so it was important today that we gave a more disciplined performance and we did that."
Pressure is what Owen Coyle's season-long strugglers continue to feel and the manager was left berating a group who are feeling more and more of his wrath.
"Frustration, anger, whatever you want to call it. Newcastle started the better but we really grew into the game. Newcastle offered no threat in the second half and we looked like we'd go on to win the game," said Coyle, who then criticised Chris Eagles and Paul Robinson for the mistakes that led to each goal. "We gave the ball away cheaply under no pressure. Soft is an understatement. Within 90 seconds we made the same mistake. It was a horrible mistake."
Coyle has reached the point where it is now open season regarding the questioning of his team's spirit.
He said: "We had character from a few but not enough, if the truth be told. I don't know whether one or two were fragile in terms of confidence. There certainly should have been no reason for feeling sorry for ourselves today.
"I'm from the old school that people should stand up and be counted, and we didn't do it well enough today. If some of the kids are ready to play then so be it. I'm not going to stand and watch the same mistakes every win [for the opposition]. We've let ourselves down in front of our biggest crowd of the season.
"A win would have put us among a group of five or six teams and would have made it interesting, but the Wolves game on the 31st is now our biggest of the season. The two goals are self-inflicted and that's hard to take. Its horrible, it's not a nice feeling as a manager."
The 69th-minute opener derived from one of the contest's rare fluid moves. After Eagles lost the ball, Jonás Gutiérrez moved down the left corridor, fed the overlapping Ryan Taylor and when he served a delivery across the Bolton area, Hatem Ben Arfa finished smoothly from eight yards out for his first goal since September 2010.
Next, Robinson handed possession away and Cheik Tioté fed Gabriel Obertan. The winger danced down the right before sliding the ball into the area and Demba Ba beat Gary Cahill – the defender will not wish to view a replay – to finish for his 14th of the campaign.
After a first-half slumberfest that contained a decent free-kick at either end from Ryan Taylor and Martin Petrov, the former's misplaced pass immediately after the restart to Ivan Klasnic, who then conceded possession, suggested proceedings would not improve.
Happily, this proved a false augury in a far better second period. For Bolton, David Ngog sliced open the visiting defence before Klasnic, in on goal, performed a stepover too many and fell over.
At the other end Obertan played in Leon Best and moments later dazzled Robinson before cutting on to his left to trouble Jussi Jaaskelainen.
"Sacked in the morning, you're getting sacked in the morning," sang the jubilant Magpie fans as the final whistle went and boos rained down on Coyle.
That may not occur but, after the 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers last Tuesday, this was a disheartening reverse. And it is the old problem of a creative deficit that Coyle has to address plus a defence that has now leaked 41 goals.
He may have some cash from the sale of Cahill to Chelsea (or Manchester United) in the January transfer window; he needs to invest it.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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