First, we obtain the only known polynomial min-max relation for graphs that do not exclude any fixed minor, namely, map graphs and power graphs. Second, we obtain explicit (and improved) bounds on the min-max relation for an important class of graphs excluding a minor, namely, K3, k-minor-free graphs, using new techniques that do not rely on Graph Minor Theory. These two avenues lead to faster fixed-parameter algorithms for two families of graph problems, called minor-bidimensional and contraction-bidimensional parameters, which include feedback vertex set, vertex cover, minimum maximal matching, face cover, a series of vertex-removal parameters, dominating set, edge dominating set, R-dominating set, connected dominating set, connected edge dominating set, connected R-dominating set, and unweighted TSP tour. Third, we disprove a variation of Wagner's Conjecture for the case of graph contractions in general graphs, and in a sense characterize which graphs satisfy the variation. This result demonstrates the limitations of a general theory of algorithms for the family of contraction-closed problems (which includes, for example, the celebrated dominating-set problem). If this conjecture had been true, we would have had an extremely powerful tool for proving the existence of efficient algorithms for any contraction-closed problem, like we do for minor-closed problems via Graph Minor Theory.