Wanderers ended a testing month with another narrow defeat as one goal at Fratton Park was enough to give Portsmouth a much-needed win of their own.
Ian Evatt’s men kicked off October with victory over Shrewsbury which kept them in and around the early League One pace-setters.
But since then it’s been tough going with a dip in form and confidence – coupled with injuries and some major miles on the clock – bringing a run of four defeats in five league games.
The latest long trip took Wanderers to the south coast and up until half-time it looked as though the Whites would snap that sequence and back up last weekend’s fighting draw against Gillingham.
But Evatt’s men couldn’t build on their promising start with a goal.
And after handing Pompey a winner early in the second half, Wanderers’ limited attacking options were exposed to leave them looking for a fresh start in November and some impetus from the back-to-back cup ties coming up.
Evatt had made two changes to his starting line-up as central defender Will Aimson, who started his career just up the road from Portsmouth at non-league outfit Eastleigh, made his first league start for Wanderers.
Nathan Delfouneso also earned a first league start of the campaign on the right-hand side of midfield as Dapo Afolayan took up a more central position.
And Wanderers achieved their first objective of the afternoon by negotiating the opening exchanges without going behind.
Conceding early has been a tough habit to shake for Evatt’s men but they stood firm here with Pompey not allowed a shot on target until the 27th-minute when Ronan Curtis’ effort was easily dealt with by Joel Dixon.
And having gained a foothold, Wanderers gradually wound it up to go closest to securing a first-half lead.
Afolayan nearly added another superb goal to his collection with just over half an hour gone as the Whites patiently worked an opening for their top scorer to cut in – this time from the left – and let fly with an effort Gavin Bazunu touched onto the bar at full stretch.
Wanderers were beginning to stretch the home side and when another decent move allowed Delfouneso to deliver a dangerous low cross, it needed a fine piece of defending from Mahlon Romeo to prevent Eoin Doyle from sniffing out a chance as he came in at the far post.
The threat was coming from the Whites as Lloyd Isgrove and Declan John got forward to willingly offer support from the flanks.
And a minute before the break, John went close to his first goal of the season as the left-back again burst into the box to fire an angled drive against the outside of a post.
Pompey had won just once in the league since mid-August – a 4-0 win over Sunderland at the start of the month.
John Marquis had netted twice in that win and six minutes into the second half the striker was on target again to relax Wanderers’ grip on the contest.
Trying to win back possession from a Pompey throw-in, Wanderers instead allowed Curtis to slip beyond Isgrove and cross for Marquis to flick the ball goalwards and in off the underside of the bar.
Dixon got a hand to the ball but failed to prevent it crossing the line and suddenly the keeper was a central figure as he then had to make an excellent save with his legs to deny Marquis a second as Wanderers wobbled.
Evatt sent on Josh Sheehan to try and regain a measure of control as Afolayan went wide again.
But Wanderers – missing the injured Amadou Bakayoko – were short of attacking reinforcements off the bench to try and reverse the flow.
And even though the visitors cranked it up in the closing stages in an effort to force an equaliser clear-cut openings remained elusive.
Substitute Harry Brockbank did his best to spark things off with a couple of decent runs and deliveries from right-back.
And it was from his cross with five minutes to go that former Pompey loanee Doyle saw his decent headed effort thud against the bar in front of more than 1,000 travelling fans who saw the last chance of a point disappear.
Bolton: Dixon; Isgrove (Brockbank 72), Santos, Aimson (Johnston 72), John; Williams; Delfouneso (Sheehan 56), Afolayan, Lee, Kachunga; Doyle. Substitutes: Gilks, Thomason, Baptiste, Gordon.
Portsmouth: Bazunu; Romeo, Raggett, Ogilvie, Brown; Tunnicliffe (Thompson 42), Williams (Azeez 78); Harness, Hackett, Curtis; Marquis (Hirst 90). Substitutes: Bass, Freeman, Morrell, Thompson, Jacobs.
Attendance: 16,231 (Bolton 1,087)
Referee: Craig Hicks