Just as anybody imagined Chelsea would collapse in quite the manner they have these past few months, it is now hard to envisage them catching Manchester United and successfully defending their Barclays Premier League title.
But a victory as comprehensive as this, in a match when you could almost see their confidence returning with every goal they scored, might just spark a revival.
Blue is the colour: Ramires is mobbed after scoring Chelsea's fourth at the Reebok Stadium
The smart money says no. It says toomany problems remain in a team enduring a tense political situation atStamford Bridge that has left the manager undermined and the playersdisillusioned.
But these players have overcome suchadversity before and it will be interesting to see if they arere-invigorated by a powerful performance as well as these goals fromDidier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and Ramires.
If they are, they will owe somethingto Jussi Jaaskelainen, the usually reliable Bolton goalkeeper who had abit of a shocker on Monday night.
But a first away win in anycompetition since October was an important one for Chelsea, especiallyin the context of the success the club have enjoyed since RomanAbramovich marched into the club with his billions.
Thunderbolt: marauding Drogba opens the scoring at Bolton with his 10th goal of the season
When a team are struggling in theway Chelsea have been, some setbacks are more significant than others.Losing at Bolton, when they had won on all seven previous visits to theReebok under Abramovich's ownership, could have been catastrophic forCarlo Ancelotti. Not so much the beginning of the end, as the end.
So it must have been quite a reliefto the beleaguered Italian to see Chelsea's run here continue, and arelief to see his players grow in stature too.
Owen Coyle's men were by far thebetter team for the first 10 minutes. Bright, physical and determined,and no doubt inspired by the emotional tribute to Nat Lofthouse, theyterrorised Chelsea's back four and almost scored when Johan Elmanderflicked on a cross from Martin Petrov into the path of Kevin Davies.
No 2: Malouda scores his side's second, squeezing the ball past the Bolton keeper Jaaskelainen
As it was, his close-range headerwent straight to Petr Cech. But Drogba's spectacular 12th-minute strikewas like a shot of adrenaline for Chelsea, as was every goal thatfollowed. As John Terry said, it has been a long time coming.
The performance was built oncomposure, cohesion and a much-needed touch of class. Drogba, Anelkaand Malouda again combined effectively; the midfield looked strong,evenin the absence of the injured Frank Lampard; as did a back four thathas been alarmingly fragile.
So often Chelsea's match winner,Drogba provided what could be a turning point. His 32-yard strike movedslightly to the left and seemed to accelerate as it dipped under thecrossbar, though Jaaskelainen misjudged it a little.
Service with a smile: Malouda celebrates as he doubles Chelsea's lead at the Reebok
Bolton responded defiantly, keen toend their own miserable run. They have now taken just one point fromthe last 15 available. Matt Taylor forced a fine save from Cech with adecent header. But confidence is clearly an issue for Coyle's men andthe way they conceded Chelsea's second four minutes before the breakwill do nothing to improve matters.
MATCH FACTS BOLTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen 3; Steinsson 5, Cahill 6, Knight 5, Robinson 5; Taylor 6, Muamba 6 (M Davies 64min, 6), Holden 6 (Blake 86) Petrov 6 (Rodrigo 64, 6); Elmander 6, K Davies 7. Subs not used: Bogdan, Ricketts, Cohen, Wheater.
CHELSEA (4-3-2-1): Cech 7; Bosingwa 6, Ivanovic 7, Terry 7, Cole 6; Essien 7, Mikel 6 (McEachran 72, 6), Ramires 6 (Kalou 77); Anelka 6, Malouda 7; Drogba 7. Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Sturridge, Bruma, Kakuta.
Man of the match: Florent Malouda.
Referee: Chris Foy 6.
It was another nightmare forJaaskelainen, even if his defenders should have done better dealingwith a cross from John Obi Mikel.
After Gary Cahill blocked Malouda'sfirst attempt, the Finnish keeper let the Frenchman's second slipbetween him and a post at the tightest of angles.
To Bolton's credit, they continuedto battle and it took another decent save to deny Elmander. There wasalso an amusing exchange when Drogba's attempt to prove he had beeninjured by Taylor's high challenge prompted Gretar Steinsson to revealhis six-pack, too.
But when Bolton could only clear ateasing delivery from the excellent Michael Essien as far as Anelka,the Frenchman responded with a decent shot that Jaaskelainen againcould not stop.
Crushed, Bolton then let Ramiresscore his first goal for Chelsea. Having blocked an effort from Anelka,they watched in horror as Jaaskelainen was beaten for a fourth time.
In a jubilant mood, Chelsea's fansfirst turned their attention to the an absent television commentator.'Andy Gray, channel five,' they cried, before returning the focus to their team.
'Chelsea are back,' they sang, andtheir words met with Abramovich's approval. Whatever happens now, thisis certainly a step in the right direction.
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