It's been a long time coming. But the Blues have crucially re-established their authority at the City of Manchester Stadium with their first home League win since the start of October.
Even reduced to ten men for the final nerve-tingling 12 minutes when Aleks Kolarov was controversially sent off, Roberto Mancini's men were too good for buoyant Bolton thanks to an early goal by skipper Carlos Tevez.
City had endured three home matches without a goal - including a 3-0 defeat by Arsenal and a drab goalless derby - since pipping Newcastle, and there had been suggestions that the Blues' title bid was stalling.
But the prolific Tevez's tenth Premier League goal of the campaign - and his 33rd in 50 games - stretched their unbeaten run in that paramount competition to six games and kept Chelsea within the Blues' sight.
City really couldn't have wished for a better start to their quest for a first home Premier League win since early October. It was as if Santa had started to tick off Mancini's list a few weeks early.
Yaya Toure, so crucial to City's attacking intent these days, decided against one of those trademark surging runs from midfield and instead threaded a delightful pass for Tevez within tantalising inches of Gary Cahill.
Once bypassed, the England defender could only track Tevez's progress as the skipper took the ball on before stroking his shot beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen with the unerring certainty of the world-class finisher he is
David Silva, buzzing around the danger area in his usual way, was convinced he had won a penalty soon after but TV replays confirmed the referee's decision that Cahill had blocked the Spaniard's shot with his chest.
Martin Petrov, unsurprisingly keen to do well against his old team-mates, was given the chance to impress with a 15th-minute free kick, and the winger's fine effort flicked off a defender and just past Joe Hart's near post.
Despite their early lead, not much was going in City's favour. A second goal for Tevez was ruled out when Silva was wrongly deemed to have strayed offside, then Tevez collected a booking for a non-foul on Sam Ricketts.
The Blues also lost Kolo Toure on the half-hour, rubbing his thigh ruefully as he was replaced by Joleon Lescott, and Pablo Zabaleta saw the chance of a rare goal denied in a one-on-one with Jaaskelainen.
At the other end, Petrov, Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander - who was furious to get no recompense when he was skittled at the end of a splendid rangy run - all threatened to make City pay for not stretching their lead.
City should have sewn up the victory inside the hour once the second half restarted, with two lovely opportunities being carved out in that time as Bolton struggled to cope with the Blues in full flow
First Silva fed Yaya Toure and the midfielder rolled the perfect pass into the path of the onrushing Zabaleta, but his side-footed shot was tipped aside when a full-blooded welly might have been more appropriate.
Within minutes Silva had essayed the pass of the match, into a penalty box no-man's land where Tevez's instinct quickly took him, and when the ball broke free Balotelli smashed his shot against the foot of a post.
When Silva fired a rising drive against the bar soon after, it seemed Bolton's goal was destined to lead a charmed life for the rest of the game.
Joe Hart, who had little to do, came close to dropping a major clanger 20 minutes from the end when a Ricketts free kick squirmed through his upraised hands and Vincent Kompany had to hoof clear a foot from the line.
And City were forced to close out the game the hard way after Kolarov was dismissed for a stretching tackle that took Ricketts' legs after the ball, leaving Mr Marriner to show him the red card.