An early Matt Mills goal, his first for the club, set Wanderers on their way to picking up three points against Watford on their own patch.
The central defender headed home Chris Eagles’ corner with just three minutes on the clock before Kevin Davies volleyed home the second, once again from another Eagles set piece.
Watford rallied after the break, and despite halving the deficit courtesy of Lloyd Doyley’s bizarre looping cross, Bolton held onto the secure a maximum haul and climb into the top half of the league table.
Two weeks on from their most recent outing at Hull, Owen Coyle made three changes to his starting line-up for Watford’s visit to the north-west.
David Ngog, fit to play his first competitive minutes following a back injury, started up top with Kevin Davies whilst Marcos Alonso and Mills both came into the starting XI.
Bolton flew out of the traps were almost a goal up within a matter of seconds.
A routine outswinging corner kick from Eagles was met by Ngog, whose header was clawed off the line by Manuel Almunia. In the perusing goalmouth melee, Alonso adjusted his body well to steer the loose ball goalward, with a grounded Watford defender able to stab the Spaniard’s effort off the line.
Though on four minutes, from another Eagles corner, Bolton broke the deadlock.
Mills rose high to meet the corner kick, with the ex-Leicester man’s header ending up in the back of the Watford net via some questionable handling from ‘keeper Almunia.
As the half progressed the visitors rarely looked comfortable, especially in their three-man central defence that was being flanked by two wing-backs.
The lively Mark Yeates represented the only real attacking threat for the Hornets. He danced infield past two defenders before seeing a low dragged shot easily held by Adam Bogdan.
Back up the other end, Keith Andrews shot wide from distance before Ngog’s stabbed effort from an acute angle was well saved by Almunia, as Bolton continued to tentatively probe in the final third.
Mills thought he’d doubled his and Bolton’s tally for the afternoon when he again nodded a cross home, only for the referee to rule out the goal after a clear infringement on Almunia.
Towards the end of the half the game suddenly burst into life following a sudden spurt of goalmouth action.
Ngog was on hand to hack Nyron Nosworthy’s shot off the line from a corner kick before from yet another relatively simple set piece Bolton doubled their lead.
Eagles was once again the provider, this time from a free-kick, with an unmarked Kevin Davies dispatching a first-time volley into the far corner.
The Trotters were seemingly in control, despite never really performing at their best, though prior to the break Yeates’ improvised volley that clipped the bar served as a warning ahead of the second period.
And after switching ends, Gianfranco Zola’s side immediately upped their game after shifting to a seemingly more familiar formation.
Though it was Wanderers who fashioned the first opening of the second half.
A clever run into the channel by Ngog helped tee up Eagles, who hammered a point blank effort into a ruck of players that was eventually smuggled clear.
The game began to become more and more open, and on the hour mark the visitors threw a real spanner in the works.
Doyley’s swirling cross from the right flank rather fortuitously eluded Bogdan and crept in at the far post. Unintentionally, the defender had somehow netted just his second goal in over 300 appearances for the Hornets.
Suddenly an air of anxiety began to creep in amid the home faithful, though their side responded admirably to stem any potential Watford pressure.
Reinforcements were introduced in the shape of Benik Afobe and Darren Pratley, whose energy helped Coyle’s side reassert themselves in the game.
Mark Davies’ shot after some quick feet whistled wide of the far post, as Bolton eventually saw the remaining 15 or so minutes out to secure three points.
Wanderers: Bogdan, Mears, Mills, Knight, Alonso, M Davies, Andrews (Pratley 66), Spearing, Eagles, K Davies, Ngog (Afobe 59) (Unused substitutes: Lonergan, Petrov, Ricketts, Sordell, Chung-Yong)
Watford: Almunia, Neuton, Yeates (Beleck 88), Hogg, Iwelumo, Doyley, Murray (Forestieri 67), Pudil, Vydra, Abdi (Smith 80), Nosworthy (Bond, Cassetti, Chalobah, Ekstrand)