Ten-man Wanderers suffered a cruel 3-2 defeat at the hands of Cardiff City at Macron Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors had opened the scoring against the run of play through Tony Watt inside 13 minutes, only to be pegged back just a few minutes later through Gary Madine’s superb curling effort from the edge of the box.
The Bluebirds then proceeded to retake the lead in rather fortuitous circumstances as Scott Malone bundled the ball home from close range with a touch from Dean Moxey, but the Whites were back on level terms through Dorian Dervite’s first goal for the club with a quarter of the game remaining.
City then found themselves in front for a third time with ten minutes to go however, Anthony Pilkington the man this time on the scoresheet for the Welsh side, while Jose Manuel Casado was dismissed for a second bookable offence on the stroke of full time as the Trotters slipped to a harsh reverse.
Moxey returned to the starting XI following his lengthy lay-off through injury, while Gary Madine was also in from the off for Wanderers having been used as a substitute against Brentford in midweek.
On the opposition bench meanwhile, there were places for former Bolton loanee Joe Mason and younger brother of Whites’ forward Shola, Sammy Ameobi.
At a rain sodden Macron Stadium, the game got underway and from the start it was evident to see that both sides were up for the challenge with a number of tasty tackles flying in from the offset.
Wanderers were the team to have the first sight of goal however, with Madine’s close range header narrowly eluding the goalmouth inside two minutes.
Their pressure on the Cardiff backline continued, but against the run of play the visitors proceeded to take the lead through Watt who snaked inside the Bolton box before slotting home at Ben Amos’ near post with 13 minutes on the clock.
A bitter pill to swallow for the Whites, they then found themselves on the backfoot as the Bluebirds looked to extend their advantage in the clash.
Just four minutes later however, Wanderers were back on level terms and deservedly so in some style as Madine curled the ball home from just outside the area with David Marshall helpless to prevent his shot finding the back of the net.
It was just the tonic which the hosts needed, with Neil Danns’ shot from distance flying agonisingly wide of the post just two minutes later.
Cardiff were on the ropes, with the visitors forced into an early change due to an injury to Lee Peltier with Fabio replacing the defender.
The Bolton faithful were bouncing however, with the home fans in fine voice as the Trotters continued to press forward with Darren Pratley forcing a smart save out of Marshall after confusion amongst the Cardiff defence.
Jose Casado was next to try his luck from a free-kick just outside the box, but the Spaniard’s effort and resulting rebound off the wall failed to trouble the Cardiff keeper.
Amos had remained virtually untroubled since Bolton’s equaliser, with the shot-stopper virtually a spectator as the game reached its half hour mark.
Shortly afterwards however, Aron Gunnarsson looked to have restored Cardiff’s lead with a piledriver from all of 35 yards, but the ball rolled around the back of the net with the visiting fans already celebrating given their viewpoint in the ground.
Something of a let off for Bolton, the remainder of the first period saw the home side carry on their pressure with Pratley seeing an effort bounce off the crossbar while Liam Feeney’s shot was cleared off the line in a manic Cardiff six yard box.
The Bolton faithful were left scratching their heads at how their team wasn’t ahead in the clash, but the first half somehow ended all square.
With no changes for either side at the break, it was as we were as referee Tony Harrington got proceedings back underway.
Moxey proved himself a nuisance as he had done through the first half inside the opening stages of the second, with the full-back causing carnage in the Cardiff box with a dangerous ball across goal.
Pratley meanwhile attempted to thwart Marshall with a quickly taken half volley, but the captain’s effort drifted just wide of the mark after seemingly appearing destined for the bottom corner of the net.
Once again however, with their first attack of the half, Cardiff breached the Bolton rearguard with with 52 minutes gone as Malone tapped home from close range with help from Moxey who was scrambling to clear his lines after Amos had blocked his initial shot.
Harsh on Bolton, the Bluebirds found themselves on the backfoot once again as the Whites looked for an immediate response.
Watt looked to have doubled his own tally for the afternoon shortly after during a rare Cardiff attack, but the offside flag was up before the frontman poked home from close range.
Buoyed by that chance, the Welsh outfit enjoyed a spell of pressure with Wanderers forced to defend their lines for a brief stint.
Neil Lennon responded however with a double substitution for Wanderers, with Emile Heskey and Stephen Dobbie replacing Moxey and Ameobi with 20 minutes of the game remaining.
Their introduction reaped immediate dividends though, with both at the centre of Bolton’s equaliser with Dervite poking home from six yard out for his first goal in a white shirt.
A deserved equaliser once again, the comeback was almost complete with 13 minutes left as Dobbie broke free of the Cardiff defence, with the forward somehow putting his shot from close range wide of the goalmouth.
Out of nowhere however, the visitors took the lead for a third time through Pilkington who drilled home from a tight angle with just ten minutes remaining.
Once again so cruel on the Whites, Lennon’s side picked themselves up and went again as they looked to equalise for a third time in the game with Heskey seeing a header go just wide of the mark.
Time was running out for Wanderers and with five additional minutes indicated, it was all hands to the pump.
In the midst of the madness however, Casado received his marching orders for a second bookable offence to compound Bolton’s frustration.
Wanderers did rally inside the closing stages in a bid to snatch a late goal, but it wasn’t to be as they finished just short at the final whistle.