Zach Clough’s sixth goal of the season earned Wanderers a 1-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion at Macron Stadium.
The striker struck the decisive effort with 64 minutes gone in the clash, collecting Josh Vela’s pass before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom corner of David Stockdale’s net.
The Whites did enjoy chances to extend their lead with Adam Le Fondre coming close, but the one goal was enough as Neil Lennon’s men left the game with all three points.
There were four changes for Wanderers from the side who started out against Middlesbrough in midweek, with Adam Le Fondre, Clough, Matt Mills and Tim Ream coming into the starting XI in place of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Saidy Janko, Dorian
Dervite and Dean Moxey.
The game started with pressure from the home side, with Le Fondre’s shot from the edge of the box following good hold up play from Emile Heskey flying narrowly wide of David Stockdale’s upright.
Neil Danns was next to get in on the action, capitalising on some hesitant Brighton defending, only to fire his effort down the throat of the Seagulls’ keeper.
The visitors soon threatened themselves however, with an unmarked Sam Baldock seemingly set to volley home with seven minutes gone, only for Ben Amos in the Bolton goal to deny him with a superb one handed reflex save.
Wanderers were back in the ascendancy not long after, although the game appeared to fall into a scrappy lull following a feisty start at BL6 with chances in front of goal few and far between.
Half way through the first period, and with both teams struggling to break out of their respective halves of the pitch, Tim Ream attempted to find Le Fondre with a lofted down field pass, only for the striker to fail in his attempts to get any meaningful
contact with the ball.
With 18 minutes of the half remaining, Heskey looked set to break the deadlock as he found himself unmarked ten yards out from goal, but the striker chose to square the ball for the advancing Le Fondre who was ultimately muscled out.
David Wheater and Heskey almost combined four minutes later as the former hooked the ball back into the path of the frontman, only for the latter to slice his effort wide of the mark.
With six minutes remaining in the half, Ream enjoyed arguably Wanderers’ best opportunity so far as he turned his man on the edge of the box before unleashing in on goal, only to see Stockdale readjust and stand firm to deny him his first goal for
As the game entered first half injury time, Heskey was harshly penalised after falling into Lewis Dunk, with the referee deeming his challenge worthy of a yellow card – an action which brought the first period to its conclusion at Macron Stadium
With no changes for either side at the break, Wanderers were the first out of the traps as Josh Vela collected a clever-through ball from Clough, only to lose control at the pivotal moment.
Minutes later and it was another good opportunity for Bolton as Feeney’s cross fizzed through a crowded penalty area, being hooked back into the mix by Ream before Heskey’s eventual shot failed to trouble Stockdale.
Beram Kayal was the first Brighton player to trouble Amos in the second period, with his long range effort forcing the shot-stopper into an awkward save to parry the ball away from danger.
The chances soon dried up again however, with both sides being restricted to long range efforts which failed to force a save out of either Amos or Stockdale.
On the hour mark though, Baldock was again causing problems for Bolton as, following miscommunication in the backline, he collected the ball and drilled goalward, only for Amos to get down low to deny him the opening goal of the game.
Carnage in the Bolton box followed moments later, with the visitors squandering numerous chances to fire home from close range as the Whites put their bodies on the line to keep the ball out.
After a frustrating game so far, Wanderers proceeded to open the scoring in the 64 minute as Vela fed the ball into Clough whose shot slowly trickled into the bottom corner of the net for his sixth of the season.
Feeney, who had sustained an injury in the earlier melee in the Bolton box, was then substituted and replaced for Kevin McNaughton.
The goal appeared to be just what the game needed, with Wanderers pushing on in a bid to extend their lead with a renewed sense of urgency.
Brighton weren’t without showing however, with Joao Teixeira seeing his close range shot blocked by Matt Mills at the death with Amos seemingly beaten.
As the clock ran down, Wanderers were still looking to add to their tally while the 78th minute saw the introduction of Gudjohnsen in place of Heskey.
Le Fondre almost had a goal of his own a minute later as he collected Bannan’s clever pass, but Stockdale was on his guard to scoop the ball to safety following the striker’s effort from a tight angle.
Chris Hughton’s side did push forward in a bid to force a late equaliser however, with substitute Kazenga LuaLua seeing his drilled strike blocked from just outside the Bolton box.
With five minutes of additional time indicated, Wanderers pushed with Vela causing problems while Brighton themselves rallied inside the dying minutes, but Clough’s goal was to prove decisive at the final whistle as Bolton held out for the victory.