On the day that City fans enjoyed their first glimpse of Edin Dzeko, Captain Fantastic Carlos Tevez gave them a timely reminder that Roberto Mancini already has a world-class goalscorer at his command.
Dzeko's sure touch, control and intelligence were readily apparent, but the Bosnian star from Wolfsburg could not crown his debut with the goal he and Blues fans desired. It was left to Tevez to conjure the crucial strike as City went top.
City's leading scorer produced a beauty for his 15th of the season to give his side the lead for the first time and, perhaps significantly, steer Mancini's men to three points from a goal down for the first time this term.
Man of the match Tevez thoroughly deserved the huge ovation he received when he came off late on, his ordinary first-half performance forgotten, along with the team's, in the heat of a rattling good thriller of a second.
That City were 4-1 up yet hanging onto a 4-3 lead through five fraught minutes of added time was as much a reflection of Wolves' vim and vigour as City's vulnerability, but Mancini will still launch an inquest
Maybe it was just that kind of a day. While City fans were waiting to see what impact Dzeko might have, Wolves took the initiative and somehow managed to scramble into the lead with just 11 minutes on the clock.
Lively winger Matt Jarvis, being tipped as an England prospect, fired in a low cross that took a deflection which seemed to flummox the home defence for a moment as Kolo Toure failed to hack the ball clear.
Serb Nenad Milijas couldn't make his first opportunity count as Joe Hart made a superb point-blank parry, but the Wolves man was first to the rebound and even Hart had no chance with his second effort.
Wolves naturally took confidence from such a development while City, taken aback, struggled to make headway against a well-organised side who were determined to be first to every ball and often succeeded.
Indeed, City might have fallen further behind had not Aleks Kolarov been able to launch a lunging block on a shot from the unmarked Jarvis after Wolves had cleverly passed their way down the Blues' right flank.
City were dangerous on the odd occasion: Johnson cut inside to fire a fierce angled drive that Wayne Hennessey was alert enough to save, and Tevez, busily trying to find his cutting edge, sent a dipper flying just over.
Their reward arrived in the 40th minute when Kolo Toure drifted away from his marker at a corner and hit a decent shot that the keeper saved with his foot only for the ball to come back off team-mate David Jones and bobble over the line.
Kolarov almost bamboozled Hennessey with a long-range cracker that skipped up off the greasy turf and found the one-time Stockport keeper happy to fumble it away for a corner, when a goal would have deflated Wolves' spirit.
But while half-time was a rather muted affair for the home crowd, City's explosive start to the second half sparked song and celebration with Tevez looking as if his batteries had been recharged during the interval.
The Argentine hit man produced a stunning goal after 49 minutes to underline why he has been so important to City's challenge so far, evading three attempted tackles before aiming low and true beyond Hennessey's reach
Four minutes later, with the crowd still buzzing, Tevez and Dzeko combined in the middle fo the park to essay a break that allowed Yaya Toure to stroke home the third from the Bosnian's perfect pass into his path.
Wolves' immediate answer as they saw a precious point disappearing was a header from Ronald Zubar that came back off the bar. Tevez responded by heading City's fourth off the underside of the bar from Pablo Zabaleta's cross, but Wolves were a long way from done.
Joleon Lescott, off the bench against his first club to replace injured Kolo Toure, had the misfortune to concede a 68th-minute penalty by bringing down Kevin Doyle, who got up to send Hart the wrong way from the spot.
And Zubar triggered an anxious last few minutes for City with a header that Nigel de Jong thought he had cleared before it crossed the line, only for an eagle-eyed assistant's upraised flag to signal otherwise.