Wanderers slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Sunderland on the opening day of the 2009/10 season.
A goal from Darren Bent after just five minutes proved to be the only difference as Steve Bruce got a win under his belt in his first competitive match in command of the Black Cats.
Bent enjoyed an impressive debut, but the outcome could have been different for his side had it not been for two world-class saves at the end of each half by Sunderland's Hungarian goalkeeper Martin Fulop.
Gary Megson selected a side containing four debutants, while Chung-Yong Lee was named on the substitutes' bench just 24 hours after completing his switch from FC Seoul. There was also a place on the bench for highly rated youngster Danny Ward, who helped to augment options in the striking department.
Five minutes into his Sunderland debut and Darren Bent put the visitors ahead. The goal stemmed from a dubious decision from referee Andre Marriner to award a free-kick against Johan Elmander on the near touchline. Steed Malbranque's delivery to the far post picked out the former Tottenham striker, who towered to nod back across goal and past the dive of Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Wanderers response to going a goal behind was encouraging as they won a couple of free-kicks from which they launched a direct attack on Martin Fulop's goal. Fabrice Muamba blazed wide from the edge of the penalty area, while Johan Elmander couldn't latch onto a Kevin Davies flick-on.
Sunderland's lead could have easily been doubled on 20 minutes when a swift counter attack resulted in Jussi Jaaskelainen thwarting Kieran Richardson. Having lost possession in midfield, Muamba was unable to halt a three-on-one break by Sunderland, in which a Bent through ball released Richardson who could only shoot straight at the onrushing goalkeeper.
This was the start of a bright five-minute spell from Steve Bruce's side and they again had further opportunities to add to their tally. The most notable chances fell to Bent, who fizzed a yard wide of the post, and a header from Kenwyne Jones that looped just over the crossbar.
The final quarter of an hour of the first half was rather scrappy. Kevin Davies tamely headed wide after a moment or two of defensive panic while Darren Bent nearly capped off a fine 45 minutes when he capitalised on a misunderstanding between Jaaskelainen and Knight, but his ambitious lob was way off target.
Just on the stroke of half-time and Gary Cahill thought he had drawn Wanderers level. An inswinging corner by Matt Taylor was met by the big central defender, but the powerful header was repelled by Fulop who simply stuck out an arm to divert it to safety.
It appeared that Steve Bruce was forced into a change at the break as Jordan Henderson was thrust into the action, replacing Steed Malbranque on the right wing. However it was his direct counterpart, Matt Taylor who had the first chance in the second 45 minutes.
The midfielder tried to place the ball into the back of the net when it landed at his feet 15 yards from goal, but unfortunately it was aimed fractionally wide. Moments later and a powerful drive from Elmander flew just over the bar, as Bolton started brightly in their quest for an equaliser.
In response, Sunderland did enjoy a period of concerted possession in Bolton territory, but as with the first half, they were unable to get that important second goal. Lee Cattermole saw a shot deflected over, while a slack pass in midfield by Muamba gifted Kenwyne Jones possession, from which he was hauled down outside the area and Richardson drilled the resulting set-piece over the crossbar.
Gary Megson's reply was to introduce Lee Chung-Yong with 23 minutes remaining. The substitution seemed to lift the atmosphere inside the Reebok and within just a minute, Johan Elmander came within a whisker of opening his season's account with a left-foot drive that flew agonisingly past the far post.
With 82 minutes on the clock, Chung-Yong came to life as inside the space of 60 seconds he almost carved out two opportunities for his new club. His first was a prodded touch to Kevin Davies, who had a shot blocked inside the penalty area, and then after a dynamic dribble down the right touchline, Sunderland were saved by a last ditch challenge by George McCartney.
As the game approached its dying minutes there was almost late drama with Wanderers launching an onslaught on the Sunderland goal.A Sam Ricketts cross evaded a host of men inside the Sunderland box and when the ball dropped at the feet of Sean Davis, a last-gasp leveller looked inevitable. However the midfielder saw his powerful shot excellently saved again by Fulop.
It proved to be the last action of the afternoon as referee Andre Marriner blew for full-time, much to the delight of the 5,000 travelling fans from the North East.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Ricketts, Muamba, McCann (Lee Chung-Yong 67), Taylor, Davis, Kevin Davies, Elmander (Ward 83) (Subs not used: Al Habsi, Cohen, O'Brien, Mark Davies, Samuel)
Sunderland: Fulop, Cana, McCartney, Cattermole, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Collins, Richardson (Campbell 77), Jones, Malbranque (Henderson 46), Bent (Subs not used: Gordon, Edwards, Nosworthy, Healy, Leadbitter)