Substitutes Martin Petrov and David Ngog ensure manager Dougie Freedman's tenure starts with three points
Two second-half goals from substitutes Marin Petrov and David Ngog ensured new manager Dougie Freedman began his tenure in charge of Bolton with victory against table-topping Cardiff City at the Reebok.
Referee Tony Bates awarded the Trotters a 68th minute penalty after Ngog was brought down in the box by Kim Bo-Kyung, and Petrov fired home from 12 yards to cancel out Craig Noone’s first half strike.
Wanderers soon took the lead when Sam Ricketts’ long-range shot was turned into the goal by Ngog's backheel to secure a sensational turnaround for the Whites.
But the day would end on a sour note for the Frenchman after his was dismissed late-on after being shown a second yellow card, but the Wanderers’ defence held on the mark a dream start for Freedman and Lennie Lawrence.
Bolton made four changes from the loss at the Riverside Stadium the previous week as Zat Knight, Darren Pratley, Keith Andrews and Matt Mills all returned to the starting line-up to replace Jay Spearing, Tyrone Mears, Tim Ream and Petrov.
It was a nervous start for both teams in front of the Sky television cameras as neither side managed to get a foot in the game in what was a relatively quiet opening half of football.
With 15 minutes on the clock, the Wanderers forged their first opening of the game as October’s 188BET Player of the Month, Chris Eagles, set Stephen Warnock free down the left, but his ball was cleared by Ben Turner inches away from the diving Kevin Davies.
Both teams continued to struggle to get a stranglehold on the game, before the Trotters had a penalty claim turned down by referee Mr Bates, after Eagles went down from a Matthew Connolly challenge.
But with the break looming and nothing really separating the teams, league leaders Cardiff took the lead when Peter Whittingham’s cross was only half-cleared. Craig Noone collected the rebound and turned in the box to fire a low shot through a forest of legs and past Adam Bogdan at his near post.
New boss Freedman would have wanted a fast response from his side, and he got his wish as the Wanderers began to ask questions of the Bluebirds defence right from the off in the second period.
First, Chung-Yong Lee lashed a ball across the box only for David Marshall to palm away to safety, before Eagles fired in an effort from the edge of the area which was again denied by the diving Cardiff keeper.
The visitors enjoyed a sustained period of possession but the Whites, urged on by the home crowd, continued to push forward with both Eagles again and Knight going close.
David Ngog was thrust into the action from the subs bench on 63 minutes and he found the back of the net from an acute angle with virtually his first touch. However, it was ruled out for offside, despite replays suggesting otherwise.
The striker would soon be heavily involved in the Wanderers’ equaliser when he was brought down in the area by Kyung on 68 minutes, and substitute Petrov made no mistake from the spot when sending Marshall the wrong way.
The home crowd were celebrating again five minutes later as Mark Davies’ cross found its way to Ricketts whose attempt was flicked in by that man again, Ngog, to give the Trotters the lead with just under 20 minutes remaining.
The Bluebirds almost found an instant reply through the constant menace that was Noone, with the winger's shot from the edge of the box flying across goal and just wide of Bogdan’s far post.
Cardiff continued to push forward in search for an equaliser with Noone once again in the thick of the action, as Freedman introduced Tim Ream in an attempt to strengthen the Wanderers’ defence.
Wanderers were camped in their own penalty area as the closing stages unfolded, but there was still time for second-half hero Ngog to go close with a shot inside the box, before the striker was unfortunately sent-off for a second booking after a late challenge on Connolly.
Deep into the five minutes of stoppage time, Cardiff still sensed an equaliser, and keeper Marshall almost became an unlikely hero but his close-range shot from a Whittingham corner was superbly saved by the face of Bogdan as the Wanderers hung on for all three points.
Wanderers: Bogdan, Ricketts, Knight, Mills, Warnock, Mark Davies, Le (Ream 79), Eagles, Andrews, Pratley (Petrov 57), Kevin Davies (Ngog 63). (Unused Subs: Lynch, Spearing, Sordell, Afobe)
Cardiff: Marshall, Taylor, Hudson, Turner, Whittingham, Cowie, Connolly, Bo-Kyung (Gunnarsson 70), Noone, Mason (Frei 83), Helguson (Gestede 63) (Unused subs: McNaughton, Kiss, Conway, Lewis)