Wanderers suffered a slender defeat against big-spending Manchester City in what was a truly compelling game in front of the live Sky television cameras at the Reebok Stadium.
Despite falling two goals behind following respective strikes from outside the area from the impressive David Silva and fellow midfield partner Gareth Barry, Ivan Klasnic reduced the deficit just minutes before the break with what was his third goal in his last three home games against Manchester City.
Edin Dzeko then restored City's two goal advantage immediately after half-time, but Wanderers again displayed their battling qualities by hitting back through a header from Kevin Davies.
And despite persistently knocking on the City door late on, an equaliser ultimately eluded the Whites.
Skipper Davies, now in his ninth season with the club, was involved in much of the early action, giving City's central defensive pairing of Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany a torrid time.
Kompany, City's captain, bundled over Kevin Davies on the edge of the area and from the resulting free-kick 25 yards from goal Chris Eagles stung the palms of Joe Hart.
Wanderers' early pressure during the early throes of what was proving to be a stimulating first half of football continued. Zat Knight diverted an unorthodox effort narrowly wide of the foot of the post from a corner before Kevin Davies saw a goalbound header well cleared by Kompany.
The visitors gradually grew into the half as it went on, with Spaniard David Silva pulling the strings in the midfield areas. He sent a perfectly weighted slide rule ball in behind Gretar Steinsson, on to which Aleksander Kolarov raced before pulling back from the byline. James Milner slid in on the loose ball but was denied by a sprawling Jussi Jaaskelainen from six yards out.
Record City signing Sergio Aguero, who had grabbed the headlines the previous Monday with a debut brace from the bench against Swansea City, then spurned a glorious chance to break the deadlock. Dzeko persisted down the right channel and managed to dig out a low cross to the Argentine who hit a first time shot at the back post narrowly over the Bolton crossbar.
But that didn't deter City, as they took the lead with a goal out of nothing. Silva found half-a-yard of space on the edge of the area before digging out a low drive that eluded Jaaskelainen and nestled in the back of the net.
And the large travelling contingent of City fans thought their side had doubled their lead when Agureo turned in a Micah Richards feed, only to be denied by referee Mike Jones, who adjudged the City defender to have used excessive force when shrugging off Martin Petrov.
Aguero then headed wide before Barry doubled the lead six minutes before the break. It was a sweet strike from the City midfielder, who picked the ball up 30 yards from goal following a corner before letting fly straight into Jaaskelainen's top corner.
But the perfect tonic for Wanderers fans just before the break came in the form of a typical goal from Klasnic. A searching pass from Nigel Reo-Coker found Petrov, who fizzed a low cross into the near post area where Klasnic had peeled off his marker. With no hesitation the Croatian international put boot to ball leaving Hart helpless.
One suspected that goal would provide the perfect platform for Owen Coyle's side to build an improved second-half showing, but immediately after the interval Dzeko eased any fears Roberto Mancini may have had. The Bosnian shrugged off the attentions of Knight before arrowing a low shot into Jaaskelainen's far corner to make it 3-1.
Milner then saw a long distance effort flash past the post before, as City continued to threaten.
Coyle responded by introducing Mark Davies on the hour mark, and within minutes Wanderers were right back in what was developing into a truly enthralling affair.
Eagles floated a 40 yard free-kick into the City danger zone, where Kevin Davies fought off a number of defenders to plant his head on the ball and in seeming slow motion guide it into the net via Hart's left post.
From that moment forward a hint of anxiety seemed to creep into the visitors and their travelling fans, though for Wanderers' endeavour, an equalising goal continue to elude Coyle and his troops.
As time ticked away Darren Pratley was thrown on from the bench, but it was another substitute who came within a whisker of effectively wrapping up the game. Adam Johnson's galloping run down the right culminated in a right-foot shot being dragged right across the face of goal.
Wanderers continued to show plenty of effort but failed to carve out any real clear-cut openings, as the referee called time on the game.
Wanderers: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Knight, Cahill, Robinson, Eagles (Pratley 78), Reo-Coker, Muamba (M Davies 60), Petrov, Klasnic, K Davies (Unused substitutes: Bogdan, Alonso, Blake, Wheater, Blakeman)
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov, Kompany, Lescott, Y Toure, Barry, Milner, Silva (Zabaleta 88), Dzeko (Johnson 80), Aguero (Tevez 67) (Unused substitutes: Pantilimon, Clichy, Savic, Balotelli)