Paul Scholes made a memorable return to Old Trafford, scoring the opener as Manchester United beat Bolton to move level on points with Manchester City.
United carved out a number of first-half chances, with Adam Bogdan saving Wayne Rooney's penalty.
But Scholes, 37, who recently came out of retirement, struck before half-time when he tucked in Rooney's cross.
United were careless at times, but Danny Welbeck poked in before Michael Carrick settled nerves from 20 yards.
Although the result never seemed in doubt, there were times in the second period when a more effective attack than Bolton's may have made this a closer encounter.
Yet after back-to-back Premier League defeats, United will be happy to put pressure on their city rivals, who face a trip to Wigan on Monday.
Bolton's defeat means they remain in the Premier League's bottom three and now face tough games against Liverpool and Arsenal at home, where they have been least effective this season.
Scholes's strike was United's 50th league goal of the season - his first since August 2010 - and it came at an opportune time following a succession of chances for the hosts.
Bogdan was inspired in goal at times, not only saving Rooney's penalty, but also further efforts from the England striker and his team-mate Welbeck.
His penalty save, after Zat Knight tripped Welbeck, was superb, diving to his right to claw away Rooney's firmly struck effort.
Mark Davies also cleared off the line and Bolton did well to survive intact, playing without the departing Gary Cahill, who is on the verge of signing for Chelsea.
But just as United fell into a lull as half-time approached, it was Scholes who sparked the game into life to continue a fine week for veterans coming out of retirement after Thierry Henry's goal for Arsenal on Monday.
Scholes, 37, had been relatively quiet up until that point on his first start since 22 May 2011, save for a whack on Mark Davies, but he was lurking at the back post to tuck in Rooney's cross after David Wheater had blocked Nani's centre.
It was his first goal for 32 matches since scoring on 22 August 2010 against Fulham, and it proved that on his second game back, a break from the game has done little to blunt his expert sense of timing.
The midfielder was later replaced, and similar to their second-half display against Manchester City last Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson's side slid into periods of sloppiness with David Ngog guilty of not punishing them when he fired over from close range.
Rooney could not turn in Antonio Valencia's cross but only a desperate block by Rafael da Silva stopped Martin Petrov's shot, and the Brazilian also cleared Gretar Steinsson's looping header off the line.
While there was a goal between the two sides, it was far from comfortable for United but their fraying nerves held together when Welbeck latched onto Rooney's attempted through ball, although it looked like Wheater got the touch, and poked past Bogdan for his eighth of the season.
Unfortunately for United, Welbeck seemed to hurt his knee in stretching for the ball and they will hope he is fit for the trip to Arsenal next Sunday.
Carrick then collected Ryan Giggs's square pass to advance and almost passed the ball into the net from 20 yards to seal the victory.
Darren Pratley went close for Bolton late on, but there was no doubt who the evening belonged to and, as Scholes's fitness improves, the decision to return to playing could prove an inspired one.