Leicester City clinched the Sky Bet Championship title in style on Tuesday night as a stunning performance to beat Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium gave them an unassailable lead at the summit.
Fittingly, it was Lloyd Dyer – one of three survivors from Nigel Pearson’s 2008/09 League 1 title winning squad – who scored the winning goal when he came off the bench to rifle a right foot screamer into the top corner midway through the second half.
It was a game that the Foxes dominated from start-to-finish and, were it not for an outstanding display of goalkeeping from Bolton ‘keeper Adam Bogan, would have been out of sight by half time.
But it wasn’t to matter, as Dyer’s strike moved the Foxes seven points clear of second placed Burnley with two games left to crown a simply sensational season for Pearson and his troops.
The three points equalled City’s tally of 96 from that successful League 1 campaign, and meant the Blue Army can now look forward to seeing their side lift the famous trophy at home to Doncaster Rovers on Saturday 3 May.
Paul Konchesky and Matty James returned to the starting XI for Leicester in place of the injured Jeff Schlupp and midfielder Dean Hammond, with top scorer David Nugent leading the line.
For the home side, former Foxes Matt Mills and Jay Spearing started for a Dougie Freedman outfit that have lost just once in 13 games but had conceded five when the teams last met in December.
Unsurprisingly, it was City who started the brighter, with the trickery of Riyad Mahrez opening up a shooting opportunity for Andy King, only for the midfielder’s right footed effort to deflect a foot or so wide from 18 yards.
Mahrez was the architect again on 12 minutes when his mazy run down the left ended with the ball only half cleared by Mills and an effort from Anthony Knockaert that blazed over the bar.
The January signing from France then went close himself with a swerving effort from range that caught Bogdan unaware, but the Bolton ‘keeper was able to push the ball out for a corner after being wrong-footed.
Bolton hitman Lukas Jutkiewicz drilled a left-footed effort high and wide during a rare foray forward to the hosts, but City were swarming around their opponents in the final third, creating chance after chance – Nugent heading wide a Mahrez cross before the winger dragged a long range effort wide himself.
The game soon settled after that fast-paced opening from the Foxes, but they still controlled large periods of the half, with only well timed blocks from Mills and David Wheater denying Danny Drinkwater and Ritchie De Laet the chance to test Bogdan.
Drinkwater did manage to work the goalkeeper before the break from a powerful 30-yard drive on his right foot after the Bolton defence backed off, but Bogan was equal to it as he pushed the ball around the post.
James followed up with a similar effort that was gathered by Bogan as pressure built on the home side – nine corners in the first half alone telling its own story.
Bolton called for the added firepower of former City man Jermaine Beckford after the break, replacing right back Hayden White in a switch to 4-4-2, but again it was the Foxes that forced the issue as Knockaert’s long ranger brought a full-stretch save from Bogdan.
Pearson then made a double change 10 minutes into the second half. Dyer came on for Mahrez and Chris Wood replaced King, with City edging closer to the goal that could secure them the league title.
Jutkiewicz scooped a good chance over the bar for the hosts as they looked to hit City on the counter, and wasted another good effort just after the hour mark when he dragged a shot across goal and wide when one-on-one.
Freedman’s men were immediately made to pay for that when City substitute Dyer cut inside from the left and from the corner of the box unleashed an unstoppable strike on his less favoured right foot that nearly burst the net, sending the City fans behind the goal wild.
Bolton, who brought on Andrew Kellett for Robert Hall, threatened in patches through Beckford, but it was all about the Foxes, who notched up their 20th shot of the match when Knockaert’s run and shot was tipped over the bar.
Chung-Yong Lee for Chris Lester was Bolton’s final change, while after Wood had drawn another splendid stop from Bogdan with a shot on the turn, Knockaert made way for Hammond.
But in the closing stages, the Bolton threat died down, and with the calming influence of Hammond, City were able to close out the match with relative ease - ending with the referee's whistle and an eruption of noise from the 2,300 travelling Foxes fans in appreciation of their side, who they could now call the league champions.
BOLTON (4-5-1): Bogdan, White (Beckford 46), Wheater, Mills, Knight, Ream, Spearing (c), Trotter, Lee, Hall (Kellett 71), Jutkiewicz
SUBS NOT USED: Lonergan, Threlkeld, Robinson, Lester, Iliev
CITY (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel De Laet, Morgan (c), Wasilewski, Koncheksy, King (Wood 56), Drinkwater, James, Mahrez (Dyer 56), Knockaert (Hammond 80), Nugent
SUBS NOT USED: Logan, Moore, Taylor-Fletcher, Phillips
GOAL: Dyer 63
REFEREE: David Webb
ATTENDANCE: 16,569 (2,371)