Brave Bolton gave title-chasing Chelsea a real run for their money at Stamford Bridge as they slipped to defeat by the narrowest of margins.
A close-range header from former striker Nicolas Anelka was the only difference as the Whites belittled the pre-match claims that Chelsea would simply need to turn up to record the three points.
In fact, it could have been a different story had two penalty appeals for handball against Didier Drogba and John Terry not fallen on deaf ears in each half.
Jussi Jaaskelainen made a string of saves after the break to keep the hosts at bay, but late efforts from substitutes Johan Elmander and Ivan Klasnic gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a real fright.
Owen Coyle made two changes to his starting line-up with Gretar Steinsson and Matt Taylor returning to the side at the expense of Johan Elmander and Tamir Cohen. There was also a change in formation as Sam Ricketts moved into centre midfield with Kevin Davies playing as the solitary striker.
Chelsea went with the strike combination of former Wanderer Nicolas Anelka and the in-form Didier Drogba, and the pair both went close in the opening exchanges with shots that were slightly off target.
And Bolton too started brightly, knocking the ball around with confidence in pleasant spring conditions on a lush Stamford Bridge pitch, with Chung-Yong Lee and Jack Wilshere's nimble footwork catching the eye.
There was a real hearts in mouths moment for the hosts with a quarter of an hour played when the South Korean winger picked the ball on the edge of the area and delivered a low, inviting cross straight through the Chelsea six yard box. It was Matt Taylor who escaped at the far post and despite his best efforts from a tight angle, Ferreira retreated to make a necessary clearance from his own goal-line.
Minutes later and the roles were reversed as Chung-Yong crept ahead of Terry, forcing the former England captain to make an important block after Taylor's delivery from the opposite flank.
After weathering Bolton's encouraging period of pressure, Chelsea came within a few yards of taking the lead through a fortuitous Saloman Kalou rebound. Drogba's powerful free-kick was punched into a crowded penalty area by Jaaskelainen, and after hitting the Ivory Coast international the ball flew just wide of the post.
The move seemed to crank Chelsea into gear and Bolton were pinned onto the back foot for large parts in the remainder of the first-half.
Drogba hit another free-kick wide from a similar area to his previous attempt, before appearing to handle in his own penalty area, and fellow defender Zat Knight made a crucial sliding interception to cut out a dangerous cross from Anelka.
It was looking like the Whites' brave defending would keep the game scoreless at the break, but two minutes before the half-time whistle, Nicolas Anelka stole a yard inside Bolton's six-yard box to nod Chelsea ahead.
It took an inch perfect delivery from Drogba down the left to unlock the defence, but once the French international had escaped unmarked then it was a simple task of heading past Jaaskelainen.
Despite the setback, spirits were by no means dampened and Bolton started the second-half with a real urgency.
Steinsson put the Chelsea defence under pressure with a fierce cross and Taylor hit the wall with a 30 yard free-kick.
Bolton had Jaaskelainen to thank for keeping the score a 1-0 on 55 minutes when the Finland stopper raced off his line to thwart Kalou. Drogba, like with the opening goal, was again the provider with a perfect slide-rule pass that beat Cahill, but Jaaskelainen was on his toes and spread himself well to repel the ball to safety.
Jaaskelainen again made another world-class save to deny a powerful Zhirkov effort, but sandwiched in between was a clear handball inside his own penalty area by John Terry. Replays suggested that there was no doubt that the ball struck the left arm of the centre-half from Chung-Yong's cross, but referee Lee Probert, who was a replacement for Chris Foy, remained unmoved.
Indeed, the game was opening up as Chelsea pressed for a second and Wanderers sought a means of getting themselves back into the contest.
Fabrice Muamba lashed over from outside the box, as did Cahill from ten yards further out while Jaaskelainen completed a hat-trick of fine saves when he dove to his right to deny Kalou after he had got goal-side of Zat Knight.
Kalou was replaced shortly after by Joe Cole and the England international was the architect of two flowing moves straight away.
A back-heel led to Frank Lampard blasting against the post before he stood a precise cross up to the far stick, which Ballack headed straight at Jaaskelainen. John Terry also volleyed inches wide as Bolton somehow kept the margin of the deficit from reaching two goals.
Both Johan Elmander and Ivan Klasnic were thrown on with a little under ten minutes to go as Owen Coyle signalled his intent.
Elmander's far post header was glanced fractionally wide with Cech stranded and Klasnic capitalised on some panic defending inside the penalty box, only to drag his shot across goal.
Bolton's late rally meant there was real anxiety and nervousness amongst the home supporters as the contest crept into its final stages.
In fact the biggest cheers of the evening were saved for the final whistle as Chelsea clung on despite Wanderers' brave and bold effort.
Chelsea: Cech, Lampard, Drogba, Mikel, Ballack, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou (Joe Cole 77), Terry, Alex, Anelka (Malouda 67) (Subs: Hilario, Deco, Sturridge, Bruma, Van Aanholt)
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Robinson, Knight, Cahill, Ricketts, Taylor, Muamba, Wilshere (Elmander 82), Steinsson, Chung-Yong (Klasnic 82), Kevin Davies (Subs: Al Habsi, Samuel, Mark Davies, Cohen, Weiss)