By Dan Harrison
Ashley Young kept up his remarkable scoring run against Bolton - although Villa were held to a 1-1 draw.
The England international scored his fifth goal in as many games against the Trotters with a superbly struck free-kick to give Villa a 13th minute lead.
It gave the claret and blues a dream start as they looked to give Kevin MacDonald the perfect send-off before he returns to his role as reserve team manager next week.
There were some encouraging signs for new boss Gerard Houllier who looked on from the stands along with Gary McAllister, whose appointment as assistant manager was confirmed before kick-off.
But Bolton were intent on spoiling the welcome party and managed to leave with a point as Kevin Davies grabbed an equaliser late in the first-half.
The fact that Villa had scored 13 goals in their previous three home league meetings with the Trotters stood them in good stead.
Clearly intent on increasing the tally by a few more, the hosts made an electric start with Marc Albrighton in menacing form once again.
He was Villa's best outlet in the opening stages, testing the resolve of Bolton's defence with just two minutes on the clock, when he motored past Paul Robinson and whipped in a cross which Adam Bogdan had to punch clear.
The 20-year-old held off Robinson again moments later before shooting wide from the edge of the box.
But it was left to a man who is used to seizing the headlines against Bolton to break the deadlock.
Young won and then converted a free-kick from 25-yards out to give Villa a 13th minute lead.
There were joyous scenes when Young curled his free-kick over the wall into the bottom corner. All of Villa's outfield players sprinted to the dugout to celebrate with MacDonald.
While the opening exchanges belonged to the home side, Young's strike seemed to spring Owen Coyle's men into life.
The Trotters created a succession of chances towards the end of the half and drew level through veteran forward Davies.
Lee Chung-Yong's probing run down the right flank created the opening.
The South Korean back-heeled to Stuart Holden, whose back post cross was cut back into Davies' path by Martin Petrov, allowing the Bolton hitman to power into the roof of the net.
Davies had gone close minutes earlier, forcing Stiliyan Petrov into a last-ditch block, while Holden and Gretar Rafn Steinsson both sent efforts wide of the target.
Villa dictated proceedings in the second-half but ultimately it proved frustrating.
Despite creating several good chances and testing Bolton's centre-backs with a succession of crosses, they couldn't find a way past Bogdan.
Stephen Ireland, whose match sharpness is clearly improving with every outing, produced a neat passage of play after the break which almost resulted in his first goal for the club.
After collecting Young's flick-on midway inside the Bolton half, the Irishman burst past ex-Villa defender Zat Knight and dinked an effort towards the bottom corner from the edge of the box, but it whistled just past the post.
Bogdan, standing in for the suspended Jussi Jaaskelainen, gave a faultless display for the away side and he reacted quickly to block Stewart Downing's effort with his legs before Knight beat the lurking Gabby Agbonlahor to the rebound.
Downing went close again when he chested and volleyed Albrighton's cross-field pass although his shot was too high.
In a repeat of the first-half, the Trotters gained confidence in the closing stages and, having been on the back foot for long periods, they went in search of a winner.
Ahead of this clash, MacDonald highlighted the physical threat of Davies and Elmander.
The duo combined to great effect, with the Swedish forward heading into the path of his strike partner, whose powerful drive deflected over.
Brad Friedel was called upon twice in the final minutes, firstly parrying substitute Matthew Taylor's free-kick to safety before holding on to Elmander's close-range shot.
But, overall, a draw was a fair reflection on a competitive and even contest.
VILLA: Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Ireland, Petrov, Downing; A Young; Agbonlahor. Subs: Guzan, Carew (for Ireland, 72), Heskey, Reo-Coker, Clark, Cuellar (for Dunne, HT), Bannan.
BOLTON: Bogdan; Steinsson, Knight, O'Brien, Robinson; Petrov, Muamba, Holden, Chung-Young; Elmander, K Davies. Subs: Lainton, Taylor (for Petrov, 83), M Davies (for Muamba, 69), Klasnic, Ricketts (for O'Brien, 18), Moreno, Blake.