Bolton Wanderers Under-23s endured mixed emotions away at Ipswich Town on Monday night as they suffered a last-minute defeat at Portman Road, but saw their place in the Professional Development League play-offs officially confirmed.
With Sheffield United losing away at Charlton Athletic earlier in the day, the young Whites already knew they would compete in this season's play-offs prior to kick-off as they looked to tighten their grip on top spot.
However, despite twice taking the lead through Connor Hall and Jeff King, hosts Ipswich Town fought back to secure a last-minute 3-0 win, leaving David Lee's side reliant on Sheffield Wednesday’s final result of the campaign to see if they will maintain first place and end the season at the summit.
Starting brightly against the Tractor Boys, Bolton were ahead inside the opening three minutes as the in-form Hall scored his 22nd goal of the season, turning well in the box after controlling a high ball on his best before rifling an unstoppable drive into the back of the net.
Continuing to threaten throughout the half, Cole Lonsdale and Ryan White both forced the Ipswich goalkeeper into action with a fierce long-range efforts before Hall saw a further strike drift narrowly wide.
Boasting a 1-0 advantage at the break, the Trotters were pegged back within moments of the restart as Conor McKendry volleyed home into the top corner from the edge of the area following hesistant Wanderers defending.
King restored the young Whites' lead soon after as he took advantage of a defensive mix-up to race clear and slot home into the bottom corner when one-on-one.
Looking to extend their lead, Hall failed to hit the target after losing his man while Dennis Politic and trialist Matthew Carter both went close following a goal-mouth scramble on the hour-mark.
However, a controversial penalty saw Ipswich Town level the scores once again midway through the half as Shane McLoughlin sent James Aspinall the wrong way from the penalty spot following a soft foul on McKendry.
King and Politic had further chances to restore Bolton's lead but both failed to score from close-range before the Trotters had a penalty shout of their own waved away after the lively Hall was brought down.
But Ipswich cruelly made Wanderers run their missed opportunties in the dying embers of the game as they took the lead for the first time on the night in stoppage-time.
Aspinall got down well to keep out Aaron Drinan's low strike across goal but could do nothing about the rebound as Jack Lankester reacted quickest to head home into an unguarded net, leaving the young Whites virtually no time to respond.
Despite the loss, Bolton remain top of the Professional Development League North table and now wait to see how Sheffield Wednesday get on in their final game on Friday to see if they win the title and to see if they face an away trip to Crystal Palace or home tie against Charlton Athletic in the play-offs.
Wanderers Under-23s: Aspinall, Brockbank, Lonsdale, Edwards, Elsdon, Carter, Politic, Earing, Hall, King, White.
Subs: Navarro, James, Morris, Jones-Griffiths, Brown.