A second home defeat in the space of four days plunged Doncaster Rovers deeper into the relegation mire as they paid the penalty for a slipshod start to the game.
Rovers could not live with Wanderers during the opening exchanges and the visitors raced into a two-goal lead courtesy of Neil Danns and Joe Mason.
David Cotterill’s free kick quickly halved the deficit but Paul Dickov’s men could not find an equaliser.
Rovers were upset about referee Gary Sutton’s decision not to award a penalty after the break when James Husband was sent flying in the box.
And to compound their misery, Millwall’s surprise win at Wigan reduced their safety buffer above the bottom three to just four points.
Bolton operated with the same diamond midfield formation that caused Rovers no end of problems at the Reebok in December and it was a case of deja-vu during the opening quarter.
Wanderers set the early tempo, looked dangerous in between Rovers’ two banks of four and took the lead with their first meaningful attempt on goal.
Alan Hutton found space down the right to lay a square ball perfectly into the path of Danns who emphatically swept home from 20 yards.
A bad start then quickly turned into a catastrophic one when Mason latched on to a lofted ball into the box and coolly fired in off the post.
Rovers were stunned but they were handed a much-needed lifeline just moments later when Cotterill’s superb 25-yard free kick found the postage stamp of Adam Bogdan’s net.
The goal temporarily injected some life and energy into the home side’s performance, although Sam Johnstone had to save smartly from Lucas Jutkiewicz and then Zat Knight to prevent the visitors quickly re-establishing their two-goal cushion.
And it was the confident away side who continued to look more threatening, as Danns almost produced a carbon copy of his goal before Jay Spearing forced Johnstone into a smart low save.
At the other end Cotterill again threatened from distance, before Richie Wellens sneaked into the box and forced Bogdan to block - his final contribution before hobbling off.
Rovers twice came close to levelling just before the break. Paul Keegan’s clipped volley from Cotterill’s corner clipped the bar, before Chris Brown’s downward header was saved. In the second half Dean Furman burst into the box but was denied by a last-ditch tackle. Billy Sharp headed the resultant corner over, and then flicked Husband’s cross wide as Rovers began to gain control of the contest.
Husband was then sent tumbling in the box but Sutton waved play on.
The impressive Danns kept Johnstone busy with an effort from distance.
Husband flashed a shot wide but Doncaster were getting increasingly desperate, and running out of ideas as Bolton opted to protect what they had. Johnstone saved David Wheater’s header before Brown, at full stretch, failed to get enough on Tamas’ teasing cross.
Jermaine Beckford and then Danns should have wrapped up the win for Wanderers in stoppage time when they were both sent clear and fired wide.
Goals: Cotterill 18 (Rovers), Danns 7, Mason 15 (Bolton).
Rovers: Johnstone, Neill (Tamas 66), Quinn, Meite, Husband, Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens (Furman 34), Cotterill, Brown, Sharp. Subs: Maxted, Duffy, De Val, Robinson, Stevens.
Bolton: Bogdan, Hutton, Knight, Wheater, Ream, Spearing, Medo, Danns, Lee (Beckford 89), Mason (Trotter 68), Jutkiewicz.. Subs: Lonergan, Mills, Baptiste, Hall, Moritz.
Bookings: Husband (Rovers)
Referee: Gary Sutton (Lincs)