Manchester City consolidated a place among the Champions League spots, moved to within a point of champions Chelsea and three off the Premier League summit – yet manager Roberto Mancini still found himself fending off talk of dressing room unrest.
Carlos Tevez's 10th goal of the season after just four minutes proved enough to see off Bolton, on a day when Mancini claimed his side had blown 14 clear goalscoring opportunities in three recent home games.
The result and its consequences should have been a cause for unquestioned celebration.
Instead, the Italian was on the back foot, fending off his touchline row with Tevez after the City captain had objected to being substituted in the final stages, and also a training ground punch-up between Mario Balotelli and Jerome Boateng on Friday that ended up being blasted across the back pages.
"No player is happy to go off," said Mancini of Tevez. "This is normal. I want all players to be like Carlos and want to stay on the pitch.
"Carlos is an important player for us but at that point in the game, we needed someone taller."
That man was Balotelli, who for once managed to stay out of trouble, having come to blows with Boateng barely 24 hours earlier.
"It was not a tough decision to include Balotelli," argued Mancini. "Nothing happened on Friday. It was a normal situation that happens with every team every day.
"And Mario played well against Bolton. All he was missing were the goals."
The 20-year-old was undoubtedly among the players Mancini claimed had been "too selfish" at times during a largely one-sided contest in which Bolton maintained an interest thanks only to a combination of good luck and excellent goalkeeping from Jussi Jaaskelainen.
David Silva was at his wondrous best, with Yaya Toure producing his most effective display on home soil since his big-money arrival from Barcelona this summer.
Indeed, aside from player relationship issues, the only cause for complaint afterwards were the needless booking for Tevez and what Mancini felt was an incorrect dismissal of Aleksander Kolarov for two yellow cards that will rule them both out of next weekend's trip to relegation-threatened West Ham. Kolo Toure is almost certain to miss that game too with a calf injury.
"It seems those decisions always go against us," Mancini said about the tackle by Kolarov on Sam Ricketts which cemented his exit 11 minutes from time.
"Kolarov got to the ball first."
As it was the same official who ruled Silva to be offside when he set up Tevez for a first half tap-in when Gareth Barry was the man who strayed beyond the last defender, Mancini had legitimate cause for complaint.
However, with key fixtures
involving new leaders Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea looming over the next three rounds of matches, it is not completely beyond the realms of possibility that City could assume top spot by New Year's Day.
"We can see the table but for the moment we must continue to work and continue to win if it is possible," said Mancini.
"We can look at the table at the end of the season."
Others are more willing to make judgments.
As the man who has tried to stop City most recently, and whose team remain sixth despite Saturday's setback, Bolron manager Owen Coyle is better qualified to judge than most. And he likes what he sees.
"Manchester City mean business," said the Scot. "They are a team that is growing and getting better.
"There is real quality in the depth of squad and it is great for the game they are right in the mix at the top end of the league.
"They have spent a lot of money but I have no problem with that. The owner is entitled to do what he wants with his money.
"All of a sudden the elite clubs are looking over their shoulder realising there is a new kid on the block.
"They are going to be a big threat on all fronts."
Coyle insists there will be no feelings of self-pity when his players get back to work this week.
He wants his team to concentrate on the derby next Sunday when they face Blackburn at the Reebok Stadium.
Coyle saw his side's five-match unbeaten run come to an end through Tevez's early goal.
The dismissal of Kolarov gave Bolton hope of an equaliser but it was not to be.
Ricketts and Kevin Davies went close to getting an equaliser but instead they suffered only their third league defeat of the season.
Coyle said: "We are disappointed to have lost the game as it is not a feeling we have been accustomed too often this season.
"We will pick ourselves up and get back in training during the week with a smile on our faces.
"I felt we never got to the heights we are are capable of. We will take our medicine and look to bounce back quickly.
"We have a tough game against Blackburn because they will be on a high after their win (3-0 against Wolves). We need to be fully focused for the challenge."
Bolton have taken huge strides this year under Coyle but he is not contemplating a place in Europe next season.
He said: "I only look from one week to another. We are not one of those elite clubs that have a long-term plan. I had only 20 players available for the game against Manchester City as Stuart Holden was injured.
"There is no one more ambitious than me. Every game I want to win.
"It would have been easy to park the bus and get everyone behind the ball.
"But I believe with the quality Manchester City have they would have picked us off."