Wanderers dug deep to avoid a Wembley wobble and keep challenging on two fronts.
After reaching the final of the Papa Johns Trophy in mid-week this was always going to be a test of the Whites’ mental and physical reserves.
And they did just enough to pass it on an afternoon of firsts at the University of Bolton Stadium.
Victor Adeboyejo’s first goal for the club and Josh Sheehan’s first of the season saw Ian Evatt’s men come from behind before half-time to mark the manager’s 150th game in charge with a sixth successive home win.
And with others in and around them in League One’s top six dropping points, it was an important victory on an afternoon when they were well below their best in their bid to secure at least a play-off place.
After the mid-week high of securing a place at Wembley and a tough trip to come to Portsmouth next Tuesday night, Evatt knew this would be a major challenge and freshened things up with four changes to Wanderers’ starting line-up.
There still looked to be some element of a hangover, however, in a sloppy start from the Whites that finally saw them concede a home goal.
Vale had already seen Ben Garrity head against the outside of a post and Ellis Harrison test James Trafford before the two combined to put the visitors ahead after just eight minutes.
The Valiants had previously won this season at both Derby and Plymouth – the only side to do so at Home Park – and again showed their threat when winning back possession and allowing Garrity to cross low for Harrison to become the first player in 10 games at the UniBol to score past Trafford.
If that was a wake-up call for the Whites, then the response was impressive as they rallied to go in front inside the half-hour with two goals in 10 minutes.
The first came from Adeboyejo as he opened his Wanderers’ account when heading in a cross from Randell Williams as two of the players brought into the side combined to impressive effect.
Williams had been as responsible as anyone for sparking Wanderers into life and when he collected a short corner from Sheehan, he found a yard to clip over a cross for Adeboyejo to nod home from close range.
Conor Bradley then headed just over from Aaron Morley’s perfectly delivered pass before Sheehan also made the most of a league start to make it 2-1 in the 27th-minute.
Adeboyejo was this time the provider as he laid the ball off just outside the box and Sheehan’s aim was spot-on as the midfielder coolly steered a shot into the corner of the net.
That got Wanderers back on track, although they were still not entirely convincing and it took a superb save from Trafford to deny Garrity an equaliser just before half-time.
A double change at the break suggested Evatt wasn’t entirely satisfied with how things were going in a scrappy encounter as Gethin Jones and top scorer Dion Charles joined the fray in a bid to help get over the line.
Jones’ defensive calmness was needed as Vale continued on the front foot in search of an equaliser and Wanderers lacked their usual composure on the ball to maintain control.
Another goal would make all the difference for the Whites and Dan Nlundulu did his best to inject some energy into the Whites’ attacking play when he made a welcome return from injury via the bench.
But chances to put the game entirely beyond Vale were thin on the ground as Wanderers - to their credit - just made sure they wouldn't slip up.
And after Jamie Proctor had fired just over for the visitors late on, the Whites were glad to avoid any further alarms – Trafford touching a looping effort over the bar in stoppage time – and bank the points from a 12th home win of a campaign still full of so much promise.
Wanderers: Trafford; Toal, Almeida Santos, Mbete (Jones HT); Bradley, Morley, Dempsey (Kachunga 90), R Williams; Sheehan (Lee 69); Shoretire (Charles HT), Adeboyejo (Nlundulu 62). Substitutes: John, Isgrove.
Port Vale: Stone; Forrester, Smith, Donnelly; Massey (Benning 19), Ojo, Pett (Butterworth 73), Worrall (Politic 73); Ben Garrity; Taylor, Harrison (Proctor 63). Substitutes: Stevens, Conlon, Agyakwa.
Referee: Will Finnie
Attendance: 19,857 (1,879)