Bolton pay penalty for not keeping their side of deal
Stoke City 2 Bolton Wanderers 2
Even amid the Bolton supporters' purgatory, a perverse humour endured.
Aware that their lead at Stoke counted for nought, due to QPR's second-half surge at the Etihad Stadium, they began appealing to an imploding Manchester City side in a plaintive chorus of 'Blue Moon'.
But where City so spectacularly prevailed, Bolton sadly folded, conceding a late penalty and confronting relegation after 11 unbroken years in the Premier League.
So directly did their fate hinge upon events at the Etihad that Bolton, players and fans alike, scarcely knew what to think all afternoon.
First-half despair gave way to half-time euphoria, as scorelines shifted in their favour, before a sullen resignation settled upon those in white as they became aware of QPR's ascendancy. Then, as news filtered through to the Potteries of Sergio Aguero's extraordinary final flourish for City, there came bitter regret at how they had failed to take care of their side of business. But for goalkeeper Adam Bogdan's slip in conceding a penalty 13 minutes from time, victory and top-flight survival would have been assured.
Owen Coyle, the Bolton manager, looked desolate, having spent all 90 minutes on the ragged edge of sanity.
Creditably, he had by turns cajoled and excoriated his players until the final whistle, never exhibiting negative body language while there was still chance of a reprieve.
As the death knell sounded, though, the shattering impact of the drop was etched in his haggard features.
As protocol dictated, he strode over to the away end to salute the supporters, but there was no outbreak of wailing or mass hysteria.
Many of them had already left the Britannia, presuming that the theatre in Manchester had taken the task too far out of their reach. (© Daily Telegraph, London)