Bolton Wanderers fell just short and were eventually edged out by the odd goal in five against high-flying Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Goals from Gary Madine, returning to his former club, and David Wheater twice brought Bolton back on level terms.
And just as it seemed three points were within Bolton’s reach, Gary Hooper netted his second of the game and what proved to be the winner very much against the run of play.
Neil Lennon made just one change to the starting team that had three days earlier drawn at Eastleigh in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup. Liam Trotter made his first start of the season, with Neil Danns dropping to a substitutes’ bench that also contained the returning Zach Clough.
On a chilly night in South Yorkshire, it was the hosts who fired an early warning shot, with Ben Amos gathering Ross Wallace’s drive from distance.
A seemingly compact Bolton unit largely frustrated the home side in the early throes, with Gary Hooper shanking a shot wide following a clever Fernando Forestieri through ball in one of Wednesday’s few clear-cut opportunities.
But after a moment of quality on 14 minutes from Forestieri Bolton were a goal down.
The Italian took aim from all of 30 yards before sending a swerving effort beyond Amos and into the Leppings Lane net.
Just when it seemed Wednesday would press for a second Bolton immediately responded.
A patient team move saw the ball farmed out to the feet of Wellington Silva on the left wing. After some clever footwork, the Brazilian sent a low cross into the area that Trotter connected with before the ball ricochet off of Madine and into the net.
After a hectic period of five minutes and two goals, the game assumed a somewhat similar pattern, with the hosts again enjoying large periods of possession with little penetration. Bolton meanwhile, did look a threat from balls into the penalty area from the flanks.
As the interval approached, Bolton began to see more of the ball inside the Wednesday half, though a couple of potentially dangerous set pieces came to nothing.
In stoppage time Hooper once again went close, this time firing over from inside the area following a quick free kick.
Despite starting the second period positively, Bolton found themselves behind.
Alert in the penalty area, Hooper got goalside of his marker to convert Daniel Pudil’s low centre, despite the best efforts of Amos in the Bolton goal.
Again, the majority inside Hillsborough expected the home side to press on, but Bolton should have been on level terms immediately.
Wellington’s pinpoint cross from the left was flicked on by Trotter into the path of Madine, whose header was straight at Owls stopper Joe Wilsmith.
And an arguably deserved equaliser arrived on 56 minutes.
Wellington tricked his way beyond a marker before being hacked down on the left. Liam Feeney flighted the resulting set piece into the area, with Wheater meeting the ball at near post with a glancing header that looped up and over the goalkeeper.
That seemed to agitate the home crowd, as Bolton sought to take the lead for the first time in the match.
And on 70 minutes Madine came close, rising to nod Feeney’s early delivery a foot or so wide of the far post.
Suddenly the tide had turned entirely and with 15 minutes left on the clock Bolton looked like the side chasing a play-off spot.
Wellington curled a 20-yard free kick over the wall and narrowly wide of the bar before Bolton were suddenly halted right in their tracks.
Hooper was once again the goalscorer, escaping the attentions of Wheater in the area before crashing a shot into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Within second of the restart a third Bolton equaliser almost followed, though Darren Pratley could only hook Wellington’s low cross wide of the near post.
Clough was introduced late on in an attempt to salvage a point, but in the end it was to no avail as the home side held on.