A courageous Bolton Wanderers performance was not enough at Stamford Bridge as they exited the Capital One Cup at the hands of Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Kurt Zouma fired the Blues ahead from close-range after a Chelsea corner fell kindly to him inside the six-yard box, but Dougie Freedman’s side were soon level as Matt Mills rose highest to head home Liam Feeney’s free-kick.
However, Oscar’s long-range strike just before the hour-mark proved to be the difference on the night, as, despite a late surge from Wanderers, they were unable to find an equaliser against their top-flight opponents.
Chris Herd was handed a Wanderers’ debut as Dougie Freedman made five changes to the side that lost at Wolves, with Jermaine Beckford, Neil Danns, Medo and Darren Pratley also coming into the side.
Elsewhere, there was a place on the bench for new signing Max Clayton while vice-captain Matt Mills skippered the side.
The hosts started the tie brightly with Andre Schurrle three times coming close to firing Chelsea in front inside the opening five minutes.
While the German’s aim might have been off for his first effort, only a fine fingertip save from Andy Lonergan denied him a second time after Schurrle tried his luck with a curling 30-yard free-kick, before Matt Mills had to be alert to clear away his goal-bound header moments later.
Lonergan produced another great save to deny the World Cup winner on the 15-minute mark, diving full-stretch to tip the World Cup winner’s curling 25-yard free-kick onto the bar.
Despite having done well to frustrate Chelsea in the opening quarter, restricting the hosts to shots from distance, Wanderers fell behind midway through the first half as a corner fell kindly to Kurt Zouma, allowing the defender to poke home from point-blank range.
It could have been 2-0 on the half-hour mark as Mohamed Salah received the ball on the edge of the Whites’ box, but the Egyptian was unable to find the target with his curling effort.
Awakened by falling behind, Bolton fought back however and soon found themselves level courtesy of their first shot on goal.
After the Trotters were awarded a free-kick after Neil Danns was brought down inside the Chelsea half, Liam Feeney stepped up to curl an inch-perfect cross to the far post where it was met by the forehead of Mills; the centre-back jumping highest to head the ball past the hapless Petr Cech much to the delight of the jubilant travelling support.
Rattled by Wanderers’ equaliser, Chelsea had to wait until just before the interval before they next called Lonergan into action.
Receiving the ball in midfield, Nathan Ake fired a fierce strike at goal from distance which seemed destined for the top corner, only to see the Whites keeper tip it away at the last moment, ensuring the sides went in at the break with the scores level.
Chelsea continued to press in the opening moments of the second half and again had only Lonergan to curse for their inability to take the lead, the Bolton shot-stopper standing tall to pull off a great reflex save to keep out Oscar’s near post header after the Brazilian connected with Schurrle’s free-kick.
There was nothing Lonergan could do to deny the Brazilian just short of the hour-mark however, as Chelsea re-took the lead.
Following Loic Remy’s burst into the Trotters’ half, the ball rebounded to Oscar on the edge of the area, allowing him to look up before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom left-hand corner.
Oscar almost notched his second of the night after debutant Chris Herd brought down Schurrle on the edge of the Wanderers’ box. The Brazilian stepped up to take the set-piece, curling it at goal only to see it fly narrowly over the bar.
With the Whites tiring Chelsea were now the team in ascendency, and they twice came close to extending their lead in a matter of minutes.
First Remy could only shoot straight at Lonergan after Salah’s low cross fell to him at the far post, before Schurrle curled an effort narrowly wide after cutting in from the left-hand side.
After Lee Chung-Yong and Jay Spearing were introduced to the action in place of Craig Davies and Liam Feeney, Bolton switched to a more attacking system midway through the second half as they fought tooth and nail to once again level the scores.
Chelsea hit the woodwork for a second time in with ten minutes to go as Lonergan tipped Schurrle’s low strike against the post before leaping on the rebound.
Joe Mason came on soon after in place of Neil Danns as the Trotters continued to chase a late equaliser.
And a leveller almost came moments after the forward’s introduction, Lee Chung-Yong testing Cech with a low, rasping shot from the edge of the Chelsea box.
Wanderers were finishing the match the stronger and almost snatched a late equaliser as Jermaine Beckford came within inches of toeing home Mason’s deflected strike from the edge of the box.
But it was not to be for Dougie Freedman’s side despite their valiant efforts, as Chelsea held on to clinch a narrow win and secure their path to the Capital One Cup fourth round at the Whites’ expense.