A second half surge proved too little too late, as Wanderers were unable to overturn a two goal deficit against a resilient Aston Villa side at the Reebok Stadium.
First half strikes from Marc Albrighton and Stiliyan Petrov had seen the visitors assume control of the contest.
Wanderers reduced arrears early in the second half through an instinctive Ivan Klasnic strike that was the highlight of a much-improved second 45 from Owen Coyle's side.
However, despite late efforts from Mark Davies, Chris Eagles and substitute Gael Kakuta the home side were unable to conjure up an equaliser on a frustrating afternoon for the Whites.
Manager Coyle made two changes to the starting line-up that had tasted defeat at White Hart Lane seven days ago.
Nigel Reo-Coker missed out with a hamstring strain whilst Fabrice Muamba dropped to the bench. In their places came Darren Pratley and Tuncay Sanli.
The game was the first at the Reebok since the passing of former player Gary Speed and as a result the club marked the occasion with a number of touching tributes prior to kick off, which included the laying of wreaths from the two sides' respective captains.
With the game up and running the opening 15 minutes proved to be a somewhat cagey affair. Neither side were able to maintain possession, with an Eagles shot from distance being the only moment worthy of any note.
Though as the half wore on the visitors seemed to grow in confidence and managed to carve out a glorious opportunity with 20 minutes on the clock.
A swift counter attack was set in motion by defender Stephen Warnock, who sent Charles N'Zogbia in the clear down the left flank. The former Wigan midfielder fizzed a low ball back across the face of the Bolton goal for the onrushing Petrov who side-footed within a whisker of the post with the goal gaping.
Whilst Wanderers were very much in the game, it was the visitors who were utilising possession the better of the two sides.
Darren Bent's first time shot from just inside the penalty area was thwarted by a smart save from Jussi Jaaskelainen, after Albrighton had shrugged Paul Robinson off the ball out wide.
Up at the other end Eagles saw a free-kick from the edge of the Villa penalty area fumbled by stand in goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Though with a pacy frontline it continued to be Alex McLeish's men who looked the more likely, and their endeavours paid dividends just after the half-hour mark.
Again the threat came down the flanks. This time Gabrial Agbonlahor crossed from the left and having seen all the action unfold from the opposite side, Albrighton nipped in to slam home a low effort that flashed beyond Jaaskelainen.
Villa were clearly buoyed by that goal and soon doubled their lead as half time rapidly approached.
Skipper Petrov engineered a pocket of space around 30 yards from the Bolton goal, before unleashing an arrowed effort that nicked off Gary Cahill on its way into the far corner of Jaaskelainen's net.
There was still time for Kevin Davies to see a header cleared off the line from a corner, before immediately after the break Wanderers continued to seek out means of reducing the deficit as Eagles extended Guzan.
The Whites very much had their foot on the throttle and ten minutes into the second half managed to pull a goal back.
Klasnic was on target for the seventh time this season, reacting quicker than anyone in a crowded penalty area to convert a loose ball after Zat Knight's effort from a corner kick caused mayhem.
Wanderers were committing copious bodies forward in search of an equaliser, but Villa always posed a threat on the counter, with a timely reminder of that coming in the form of Bent's effort that shaved the foot of the post.
Coyle introduced the unpredictable Kakuta and David Ngog with 20 minutes left as Wanderers continued to probe.
Though as time continued to tick away, a sliced Kakuta shot from the edge of the area was the closest Wanderers came to levelling the scores.
With 12 points still to play for before the turn of the year, all attention now turns to next weekend's trip to face Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Boyata, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Eagles, M Davies, Pratley, Tuncay (Kakuta 71), K Davies, Klasnic (Ngog 79) (Unused substitutes: Bogdan, Steinsson, Muamba, Petrov, O'Halloran)
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Warnock, Dunne, Collins, Bent (Heskey 82), N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Albrighton, Petrov, Herd (Unused substitutes: Marshall, Ireland, Delfounso, Clark, Bannan, Weimann)