If Carlo Ancelotti really intends to win 13 of his last 16 Premier League games, to keep Chelsea in contention for the title, he is going to need Didier Drogba back to his best. He can only have been encouraged by the way his main striker set the tone for the first victory of the sequence here, putting his side in front with an unstoppable 30-yard shot that must rank as one of the best goals the Ivorian has ever scored.
Drogba was jeered by the home crowd afterwards, mainly for a theatrical tumble to win a free-kick on the edge of the Bolton area, which was further evidence he is back to his old self. Ancelotti's target may be an improbable one but if a fully recovered Drogba can continue to score goals of such quality Chelsea may still have a chance.
When the game began, after an immaculate minute's silence for Nat Lofthouse, Bolton created a chance within a couple of minutes. Johan Elmander helped on Martin Petrov's cross from the left to find Kevin Davies in front of goal but the striker was unable to put enough power into his header to trouble Petr Cech.
It was Chelsea who struck next and there was so much power in Drogba's shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen was beaten from 30 yards out despite having a clear view of the flight of the ball. There appeared no particular danger when Gretar Steinsson was dispossessed by Florent Malouda on the Bolton right; as the ball broke to Drogba he turned inside, looked up at goal and let fly. Jaaskelainen was not badly positioned, not even far off his line, yet he could not prevent the ball going over his head and into the net.
Drogba shot straight at Jaaskelainen from a narrow angle a few minutes later and then saw Nicolas Anelka squander an even better opportunity, uncharacteristically wanting too much time for a show after a perfectly placed through ball had put him one on one with the goalkeeper. Bolton managed their next threat on Cech's goal after half an hour. Again Petrov was the provider, with an early cross from the left touchline, and Matt Taylor's header was creeping inside the upright before the diving Cech reached it with his fingertips to push it round for a corner.
An equaliser at that stage would have made the game interesting but Bolton put themselves under a severe handicap by conceding a second goal four minutes from the interval, through sloppy defending. Owen Coyle will hardly know where to start when he begins his inquest. First Paul Robinson conceded a needless corner after mistiming a header and not realising Anelka was behind him. Then Malouda's corner was not properly cleared, and when the ball came back to the taker the France winger had a choice of targets to aim for from the byline. Gary Cahill managed to block his first attempt at a cross but then turned his back, and so was powerless to prevent Malouda collecting the rebound and successfully steering a low shot through a crowd of players and into the goal.
Bolton attempted to redress the damnage before half time but Cech was equal to Elmander's close-range effort, even though he may not have known much about it.
Chelsea could have had even more as Bolton left themselves stretched in the second half but Michael Essien, unlike Drogba, does not appear to be back to his best and his distribution was at times wayward. Essien was involved in the third goal, however, a patient build-up on the left leading to a cross that Drogba nudged backwards for Anelka to score against his old club.
Bolton were only playing for pride after that – the contest was as good as over in under an hour – but Cech was obliged to make a smart save from Mark Davies after the substitute replaced Patrice Muamba and immediately made a run into the Chelsea penalty area. Cahill completed an unhappy evening by giving the ball away to Anelka in his own half, and was grateful for Jaaskelainen's help in preventing a fourth. Bolton's evening was summed up when Elmander and Kevin Davies combined to send over a cross from the right, one that either of them would have been better off meeting in the middle. As it was there was only Taylor to try a header, and his contact was feeble.
The fourth goal arrived shortly afterwards, Anelka seeing a shot blocked after Essien had crossed from the left and Ramires seizing on the rebound for his first goal for the club.
"Chelsea are back," chorused the travelling support, and at this rate they might be. Four-nil victories at the Reebok are not to be sniffed at, and at least one of this clubs seems to be in a false position