The returning American Stuart Holden was the hero for Wanderers, as he popped up with the winning goal with just minutes on the clock to secure Bolton's first home win over Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers in over a decade.
Fabrice Muamba, who had appeared as a second half substitute following the controversial sending off of Mark Davies for two yellow cards, had opened the scoring after half-time before another substitute, Mame Biram Diouf, levelled for Rovers late on.
In truth Wanderers were narrowly the better of the two sides, in what was a fiercely contested derby in front of the Sky TV cameras, as the returning Sam Allardyce left the Reebok Stadium empty handed.
Owen Coyle opted to make just the one change to the starting line-up that succumbed to a narrow defeat against Manchester City the previous week, with Stuart Holden deemed fit enough to return to the starting XI following a two week spell on the sidelines with a thigh strain. The American lined up alongside Mark Davies in an attacking midfield, with Fabrice Muamba dropping to the bench.
For the visitors there was a place in the team for Senegalese El-Hadji Diouf, who spent four seasons at the Reebok.
And it was Diouf who helped carve out the first opening of the afternoon, swingingdangerous ball into the danger zone which Jason Roberts glanced narrowly wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal.
It was an early warning shot from the visitors, to which Wanderers responded. Mark Davies scampered away on one of typical bursts through the heart of the Blackburn midfield before firing a low effort into the midriff of Paul Robinson.
Martin Petrov, who was up against ex-Real Madrid right-back Michel Salgado who he had faced numerous times during his days with Atletico Mardrid, caused numerous early problems. The Bulgarian fizzed a teasing ball across the face of goal that narrowly eluded everyone, before testing Robinson with a free-kick from all of 30 yards.
The game had all the characteristics of a typical derby game - plenty of endeavour, passion and grit from both sides, with Wanderers narrowly edging the opening half hour.
The real source of danger for Coyle's men continued to come from Petrov, whilst Sam Ricketts also threatened with numerous marauding runs down the right flank.
But despite looking the more likely, there was a distinct lack of clear-cut chances in the final third.
Blackburn did come close through Morten Gamst Pedersen, who saw a rasping set piece from the edge of the area beaten away by Jaaskelainen, after Zat Knight had brought down Jason Roberts who had been haring down on goal.
A number of fierce tackles and heated words continued to fly between the two sides, as the referee called time on the opening 45.
After the interval it continued to be more of the same, as Blackburn's resilient 4-5-1 formation began to come under more scrutiny from Wanderers. Robinson was forced into a full stretch save from Holden after Mark Davies has done well to win a free-kick and defender Gary Cahill saw a close range effort blocked.
But things were soon to turn sour for Mark Davies, who was shown a second harsh yellow card of the afternoon. Having collected a booking in the first half after an overzealous challenge, the lively midfielder was adjudged to have lead with his elbow in an aerial challenge with Phil Jones and was given his marching orders much to the bemusement of the Reebok faithful.
Coyle reacted immediately, throwing Muamba into the midst of the action in place of Chung-Yong Lee.
Allardyce meanwhile fancied his chances and introduced Manchester United loanee Mame Biram Diouf.
A sustained period of pressure from the hosts followed, Ryan Nelsen saw a header scrambled clear at the back whilst skipper Kevin Davies superbly thwarted a goalward header.
But from the unlikeliest of sources the ten men of Wanderers responded in the perfect fashion. Substitute Muamba showed fantastic composure to bring the ball down in the Blackburn area, before shaping to shoot with his right and shifting the ball onto his left and dragging a low effort into Robinson's net.
And remarkably Wanderers had the ball in the net just moments later. Petrov lashed home from just inside the area, only for referee Mark Clattenberg to disallow the strike for an apparent foul in the build-up much to the clear frustration of the Bulgarian.
With just 15 minutes to go, Wanderers were now in the ascendency and Johan Elmander floated a dangerous ball into the box that drifted inches wide of the far post and Holden volley over the crossbar after a clever chest pass from Kevin Davies.
But against the run of play Rovers levelled to seemingly secure a point. Roberts fed Mame Biram Diouf, who somehow managed to smuggle the ball over the onrushing body of Jaaskelainen to send the travelling contingent behind the goal wild.
However their joy was short lived, as Wanderers capped a barnstorming 60 seconds by going back in front. Holden was quickest to react when the ball popped up at his feet on the edge of area, slamming an effort beyond the despairing dive of Robinson with just minutes to spare as the Reebok Stadium erupted.
And despite a lengthy six minutes of added time, Wanderers held on for the all-important three points.
Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Ricketts, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Chung-Yong (Muamba 58), M Davies, Holden, Petrov (Taylor 77), Elmander, K Davies (Unused substitutes: Bogdan, Steinsson, Blake, Klasnic, Rodrigo)
Blackburn: Robinson, Salgado (Dunn 72), Nelsen, Samba, Givet, Olsson (M Diouf 62), Emerton, Jones, E-H Diouf (Hoilett 77), Pedersen, Roberts (Unused substitutes: Bunn, Dunn, Kalinic, Benjani, Hanley)