For the first time since Alex McLeish swept into St Andrew's on a tidal wave of optimism and bonhomie, Birmingham City finished a match with genuine question marks over their Premier League status.
As a defensive unit, for the first hour, they coped reasonably well with the twin threats of Nicolas Anelka and El Hadji Diouf. As an attacking force they grew in stature. Then, in the final quarter, they imploded.
The self-inflicted wounds that have stymied significant progress under McLeish were bare for all to see on Saturday, yet it wasn't only one - as it had been against Reading and Newcastle United in previous weeks, it was three.
What must have been Stephen Kelly's only clanger of the season so far, dropped to the turf in the 72nd minute where it was joined six minutes later by another, this time from Johan Djourou.
Those two were so bad that Cameron Jerome's concession of possession three minutes into injury time barely registered, even though it enabled Anelka to steal his second and Bolton's third goal of a strangely low-key afternoon.
After Sebastian Larsson's senior moment at St James' Park and Mat Sadler's complete cock-up last weekend, here were two, arguably three, mistakes straight out off the Keystone Cops set.
One has to feel for Kelly. A half-time reshuffle meant he was switched from the left to the right side of defence.
Nevertheless his missed clearance in his own six-yard area allowed Anelka's cross to land at Diouf's feet. An hour and a quarter's work had been wasted.
Worse was to follow, however. Djourou, moved from midfield to Kelly's right full back berth, ambled back to take a throw in midway in his own half.
For a good ten seconds he ignored a simple restart to Radhi Jaidi and instead paused to allow Bolton to mark up. Once satisfied every one of his team-mates was covered he turned and threw towards Maik Taylor.
The only trouble was Anelka was in between the Arsenal man and his goalkeeper and the Frenchman accepted the gift with alacrity.
A shimmy past Taylor left the net unmanned. Two mistakes, two goals, three points gifted.
Birmingham must hope they will run out of bullets soon as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot. Four points have been lost in three games because of such blunders.
At least we have these lowlights with which to recall an otherwise forgettable game.
Bolton away, on a foggy, dank cold December afternoon was everything one feared it would be.
If the television moguls insist on packaging the Premier League as the best competition in the world, they must find an answer to first halves like the one proffered here or otherwise airbrush them from screen history. Bolton were mundane, Birmingham were rarely that good.
The hosts' tactics were clear as soon as their goalkeepers started practising drop kicks before match. If there were any triangles out there, they were not particularly neat and the hypotenuse was extremely long.
But that is once again their predilection. They had dabbled with the Anfield way under Sammy Lee, so successfully he lost his job after only half a season.
With Gary Megson now in the Reebok driving seat it's back to basics. It's not pretty but against opponents of such low confidence it's pretty effective.
The former West Bromwich Albion manager made everyone at The Hawthorns miserable even when the side was winning promotion. Bolton are now in the last 32 of the Uefa Cup and still no-one is smiling.
Birmingham's problems started even before kick-off when the van transporting their kit became stuck in traffic.
As a result they were forced to wear their blue home shirt and their red away shorts and socks.
It was neither a pleasant melange nor a good omen and they remain marooned in the relegation battle.
Mikael Forssell, last weekend's goalscorer and Birmingham's one proven finisher, was sacrificed on the altar of expediency as McLeish opted for a return to the 4-5-1 formation that had served him so well against Tottenham.
But then there was proper support for Jerome. Here the supply line was fractured and when the ball did come his way he could only flick or chase.
Neither Gary McSheffrey nor Larsson was able to help him out.
Neutered offensively, Blues invited Bolton on to them. Anelka might have hit the net instead of Taylor's legs when Rafael Schmitz failed to deal with Diouf's cross early in the game.
Jaidi was lucky near the break when he slid Kevin Davies' centre towards his goalkeeper and not into his own goal.
City's best chance came three minutes after the restart when Ivan Campo deflected McSheffrey's right-wing inswinger towards his near post. Jussi Jaaskenlainen was on hand to divert it wide.
Kevin Nolan saw a perfectly good goal cancelled out for offside at the halfway point of the second period but the reprieve was short-lived as Kelly let the rot set in.