City produced a vastly-improved display to take home a point from the Reebok Stadium, despite being frustrated by the brilliance of Bolton ‘keeper Adam Bogdan.
The Trotters’ Hungarian stopper produced a string of outstanding saves to thwart Nigel Pearson’s visitors, whose dominant first-half display suggested a return to winning ways could be on the cards on the back of two defeats.
But Bogdan’s heroics coupled with a more even second period, where City were grateful to their own goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, for some important saves, meant the spoils were shared in Lancashire.
The result leaves City still well-placed among the npower Championship’s pace-setters, ahead of a mouth-watering East Midlands derby against Nottingham Forest at King Power Stadium on Saturday.
On opposite ends of 2-1 score-lines at the weekend, both sides came into the game knowing a positive result would be important, be it to build on momentum already established or, in City’s case, to prevent consecutive defeats turning into a greater decline.
Bolton were unchanged from their win over leaders Cardiff on Saturday evening, with former Foxes Matt Mills and Mark Davies among those starting. City boss Nigel Pearson made four changes from the side beaten at Watford, including a full debut for defender Michael Keane and a place on the bench for fellow Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard.
If Pearson’s changes were aimed at drawing an improvement from his side, they had the desired effect during an opening half-hour City dominated. Moving the ball with the speed and style that seasoned a recent five-game winning streak, they set about a Trotters side that looked uneasy in its setup.
Bogdan was in action as early as the third minute, saving brilliantly from David Nugent’s first-time shot after Martyn Waghorn and Lloyd Dyer had combined to set him up in a lightning counter-attack. Only Zat Knight’s recovering challenge prevented Nugent sliding in the rebound.
Winning the ball back quickly before pouring forward in numbers, the visitors flooded the home defence down the right on 15 minutes, Ritchie De Laet feeding Anthony Knockaert, whose cut-back was struck truly by the arriving Danny Drinkwater. Again, Bogdan parried at a stretch.
Dougie Freedman’s men were struggling to escape their own half, much to the frustration of the home support, and were grateful to Bogdan once more on 22 minutes, as the flame-haired Hungarian flew to his right to tip Waghorn’s curler round the post.
Moments later, City were raiding down the right again as De Laet, fed by Knockaert, flashed in a cross that skimmed off the face of the crossbar.
It was remarkably one-sided and it took some tactics of bygone years at the Reebok for Bolton to steady the ship. Out went the free-flowing football Freedman will eventually look to install and in came Kevin Davies – muscling his way onto long balls to win free-kicks and throw-ins that would ease the pressure.
Chris Eagles, otherwise quiet in the first half, forced a routine save from Kasper Schmeichel with a long-range free-kick on the half-hour, before the Dane produced an impressive stop from Lee Chung-Yong on the stroke of half-time, as the Korean sought to profit from Sam Ricketts’ long throw.
City had lost Paul Konchesky, who pulled up lame while chasing a Bolton counter-attack, shortly before half-time and the hosts sought to test his young replacement, Jeff Schlupp, with a series of ring-wing attacks early in the second half.
Schlupp, like Liam Moore, who replaced Keane shortly before the hour-mark, stood up to the test manfully.
But the hosts' positivity brought some reward, as Schmeichel was forced into presentable saves from Eagles, Kevin Davies and Mark Davies in quick succession - the latter stretching him the most significantly as the advancing former Fox sized up the bottom corner from 20 yards.
While not as fluid as they had been in the first half, City continued to probe high up the pitch – Nugent slamming into the side-netting after a cleverly-lifted pass from Knockaert had found him with a narrow sight of goal. Waghorn followed that up with a powerful drive from range that Bogdan had to push uncomfortably out of danger.
Both sides went for the win, but it was City looking the more likely to produce a decisive goal. Ricketts blocked bravely at Nugent’s feet with Bogdan’s goal in sight, before the Bolton stopper plunged to his left to keep out Knockaert’s disguised shot nine minutes from time.
And when the industrious Andy King made space for a shot from range in the final minute, the Welshman was only a foot over Bogdan’s crossbar.
Bolton (4-2-3-1): Bogdan; Ricketts, Mills, Knight, Warnock; Andrews, M. Davies; Lee (Petrov 71), Pratley, Eagles (Afobe 81); K. Davies.
Unused subs: Lynch, Mears, Ream, Sordell, Spearing.
Booked: Ricketts, Pratley
City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet, Morgan (c), Keane (Moore 57), Konchesky (Schlupp 40); Knockaert, Drinkwater, King, Dyer; Nugent, Waghorn (Lingard 85).
Unused subs: Logan, Marshall, James, Futacs.
Attendance: 16,754 (1,227 away)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)