Wanderers’ hopes of a Carabao Cup shock were extinguished but not before giving Aston Villa a fright.
The Whites led the Premier League side as a Dion Charles’ goal capped a superb start from Ian Evatt’s men.
An upset looked on the cards as Wanderers rose to the occasion inside a vibrant University of Bolton Stadium as they rekindled memories of a famous semi-final win over Villa 18 years ago.
But Villains’ boss Steven Gerrard took no chances with his team selection as he named a power-packed line-up.
And the five-time winners ultimately had enough to get the job done as they built on Douglas Luiz’s freakish equaliser direct from a corner to book their passage through with three goals inside the final half hour.
Wanderers made six changes to the side which had lost its 14-game unbeaten record at the weekend but were far from weakened as Evatt dipped into his squad strength.
And those charged with trying to take the Whites into round three for the first time since 2018 didn’t disappoint.
Roared on by another fantastic crowd of over 20,000 – and watched by a national television audience at home – Wanderers lived up to their manager’s promise to take the game to their top-flight opponents.
Villa, fielding a side full of established Premier League performers, were inevitably a threat themselves at times through the speed and movement of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins.
Whites’ skipper Ricardo Almeida Santos was back to his defensive best but Joel Dixon still had to be alert to save from both, with his stop at the feet of Watkins particularly impressive.
But Wanderers were every bit as good going forward as the impeccable Kieran Lee coaxed and cajoled them into attack.
Elias Kachunga had sent an early effort skidding only inches wide and with 24 minutes gone Wanderers went ahead in thrilling style.
Inevitably Lee was involved and after his persistence, in company with Dapo Afolayan, had Villa back-tracking, Lee waltzed into the box and past Callum Chambers to pull the ball back for Charles to slot home.
The striker’s first goal of the season had the place rocking and it was arguably against the run of play that Villa equalised with an unlikely strike eight minutes before half-time as a corner from Douglas Luiz swung straight into the far top corner.
That did little to slow Wanderers’ momentum, however, and they nearly restored their lead within two minutes of the second half.
A lovely ball over the top from Will Aimson gave Kachunga a sight of goal before he was bundled to the ground to earn a free-kick which Declan John curled a whisker wide.
Villa countered with Lucas Digne getting forward to fire wide before Ings hit the foot of a post following another rapid counter-attack as the pace refused to relent.
And with just over an hour gone Villa went ahead with Ings doubly involved.
Philippe Coutinho’s through-ball released his former Liverpool team-mate whose heavy touch appeared to have wasted the chance before Dixon’s forward momentum caught the striker to concede a penalty which Ings slotted home.
It was a luckless way to go behind and the Whites were suddenly left with all to do as Digne quickly added another as he burst into the box to steer a shot inside the near post as Dixon lost his bearings.
Villa were able to add more quality from the bench and one of their substitutes, Leon Bailey, delivered a high-class finish to make it 4-1.
That was harsh on Wanderers who had given their all and were grateful to two late saves from Dixon to prevent Villa from adding to a flattering scoreline.
Wanderers: Dixon; Aimson, Santos, Johnston; Bradley Sadlier 82), Williams, Lee, John; Kachunga (Dempsey 67); Charles, Afolayan (Bakayoko 71). Substitutes: Trafford, Jones, Iredale, Morley, Thomason.
Booked: Johnston, Kachunga
Aston Villa: Martinez; Young, Chambers, Mings, Digne; Kamara (Ramsey 71), Luiz (Iroegbunam 84), McGinn; Coutinho (Buendia 71); Watkins (Bailey 71), Ings (Archer 82). Substitutes: Olsen, Cash, Konsa, Feeney.
Referee: Andrew Kitchen