As Everton's exclusive 500 club opened its books to admit a new member, it was in memorable fashion. David Moyes celebrated a landmark occasion with a substitution of counterintuitive brilliance to increase hopes of winning the first trophy of his long reign. Exit the Scot's specialist goalscorer, Nikica Jelavic, enter Johnny Heitinga, a centre-back by trade, and onward Everton marched, propelled into the last 16 by the replacement.
If the change, which was greeted with a sprinkling of boos, was designed to allow Marouane Fellaini to operate further forward, bringing on Heitinga to anchor the midfield, it had an unexpected benefit. "We needed to try and find another tactical way of trying to create a goal," said Moyes, who quipped his touchline briefing to Heitinga consisted of one word: "Shoot." He did just that when Bolton failed to clear Magaye Gueye's corner, the Dutchman drilling a shot through a crowded penalty area.
"I thought Bolton had done enough to get a replay," Moyes admitted, deriving more pleasure from the outcome than the process. "The job is to get through in the FA Cup and I have had many years where I have not." But now Everton, semi-finalists last season, are two games away from a return to Wembley. With Gueye, another replacement, then hitting the bar, it made for an emphatic end to a close contest.
Only Harry Catterick and Howard Kendall had previously reached 500 matches as Everton manager. Unlike the Goodison greats, Moyes has no medals to show for his service. The quest for silverware has entailed fielding strong sides, a policy that seemed to have backfired when the influential Kevin Mirallas, starting for the first time in seven weeks, limped off with a recurrence of his hamstring problems.
Within a minute, however, Everton led. Steven Pienaar, the only player rested for the third-round tie at Cheltenham, marked his entrance to this season's competition with a fortunate opener. Victor Anichebe met Leighton Baines's low cross with a sidefooted shot that was turned in, seemingly inadvertently, by the advancing Pienaar.
Since relegation in May, Bolton have tumbled into the lower half of the Championship. Yet top-flight opposition bring the best from one of their number. Marvin Sordell has a solitary league goal this season but has four in three FA Cup ties against Sunderland and now Everton.
An expertly-executed equaliser followed a similarly precise centre from Darren Pratley. "It's the way I want to play football," the Bolton manager Dougie Freedman said. "For the next hour we played possibly the best football since I have been here."
Belying their league position, Wanderers pushed for a second. The Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard, a scorer from 104 yards against them last season, saved from rather closer distances, twice denying the excellent Marcos Alonso and once thwarting Pratley before Everton's resolve brought a reward.
"A small detail at the end let us down," Freedman lamented. His players had provided 90 minutes of endeavour, the groundstaff and volunteers 24 hours of work to clear a snowy pitch. "It was a kick in the teeth."