Ivan Klasnic came off the bench to net his ninth and arguably most important goal of the season as Wanderers secured a dramatic three points against QPR at the Reebok Stadium.
The Croatian international appeared as an 80th minute substitute in a bold move by boss Owen Coyle and took just six minutes to fire home the all-important strike with the game locked at 1-1.
Prior to that QPR had been denied an opener when Clint Hill's header was clawed out from behind the goalline by Adam Bogdan, only for the referee and his assistant to allow play to continue.
That then allowed Wanderers to take the lead in the 37th minute, as Darren Pratley headed home Tim Ream's delicate cross.
Immediately after the break QPR responded through Djibril Cisse, despite a hint of offside, though it was to prove irrelevant as Klasnic slid home the winner late on.
Wanderers started the game the better of the two sides, with the first real chance of note falling the way of David Wheater. The burly defender met Ryo Miyaichi's swirling corner kick with a firm goalbound header only to see a QPR defender block the ball's route to Paddy Kenny's top corner.
Whilst Bolton were looking dangerous going forward, the pace and power combination of Cisse and Bobby Zamora up top for the Hoops was always a threat.
The pair combined well on the break to tee up Joey Barton who saw a shot nick off the heel of Sam Ricketts and inches wide of the stranded Bogdan's post.
Gradually Mark Hughes' men grew in confidence. Cisse clipped a delicate ball over the Wanderers defence before Zamora lashed against Bogdan's crossbar from an almost impossible angle.
If the Whites hadn't adhered to the warning signs they were given a stark reminder midway through the half.
After Barton's placement of the ball in the corner quadrant had finally satisfied referee Martin Atkinson, the QPR skipper whipped a ball into the near post that was met by Hill. On first glance it seemed the defender's header had come back off the crossbar amid numerous appeals from the mango coloured shirts in the vicinity of the incident.
It wasn't until a second viewing that it became clear that Hill's header had actually crossed the goalline, with Bogdan clawing the ball out and onto his own crossbar.
The QPR players protested to the referee whilst Wanderers gathered themselves. Shaun Wright-Phillips then volleyed wide from distance
But Bolton weathered the QPR storm, responding in the perfect fashion to open the scoring.
Ryo's quick free-kick was farmed across the face of the Bolton goal via Mark Davies, before Ream found space in the left channel. The American defender stood up a superb cross into the danger zone allowing for the unmarked Pratley to rise and head home.
Wanderers held on until the break despite Nedum Onuoha testing Bogdan from an acute angle.
Though QPR's persistence eventually paid dividends immediately after the restart.
A through ball deflected off Pratley and into the path of Cisse, who made no mistake when one-on-one with Bogdan, finishing low into the Hungarian's net.
Coyle's charges responded well to conceding the equaliser.
Ricketts skipped infield from the left flank and fizzed an effort within a whisker of Kenny's post before sub Chris Eagles crashed a free-kick from a dangerous position into the wall.
With the game finely balanced, it could have easily gone either way.
Coyle threw on Klasnic in place of Pratley and it was that move that was to prove pivotal.
On 86 minutes Ryo meandered infield from the right side before prodding a cute ball into the path of Klasnic. The Croatian steadied himself, before slotting the ball beyond the onrushing Kenny and into the net.
The visitors threw everyone forward in the remaining minutes, but Bolton's rearguard stood strong as the referee called time on an enthralling affair.
Wanderers: Bogdan, Steinsson, Wheater, Ream, Ricketts, Reo-Coker, M Davies, Pratley (Klasnic 80), Ryo, Petrov (Eagles 71), Ngog (Muamba 89) (Unused substitutes: Jaaskelainen, Knight, Sordell, K Davies)
QPR: Kenny, Diakite, Hill, Derry (Buzsaky 79), Traore (Taiwo 79), Barton, Cisse, Wright-Phillips (Mackie 80), Ferdinand, Onuoha, Zamora (Unused substitutes: Cerny, Gabbidon, Bothroyd, Young)