Bolton moved to within three points of the Championship play-offs after beating Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 at the Reebok Stadium.
In a game that was billed as crucial to Wanderers' chances of promotion, Marcos Alonso scored the only goal of the game to put Dougie Freedman's side within touching distance of the top-six.
The former Real Madrid defender picked up possession on the left wing and hit a hopeful cross-cum-shot across the face of the Seagulls' penalty area, only for it to catch out the defenders fly into the bottom corner of Tomasz Kuszczak's goal.
Brighton were perhaps unfortunate to be behind and peppered the Bolton goal in the final 20 minutes but they failed to find a way through a resilient Wanderers backline. Ashley Barnes was shown a straight red card in stoppage time, as the Trotters held on to claim a fifth successive victory for the first time since December 2006.
Freedman's pre-match selection caused few surprises, with just one change made from the team that beat Blackburn Rovers on Tuesday night - Chris Eagles in for Medo Kamara.
Bolton's trip to Brighton in November was probably the toughest game they have encountered this season, so it was important that the hosts contained their opposition in the early moments of the game and Zat Knight did just that - denying Barnes a clear shot on goal with just five minutes on the clock.
David Ngog shot straight at Kuszczak with Wanderers' first attempt just two minutes later, before Barnes headed over the top of the crossbar at the other end after a smart cross from Bruno.
Brighton's early dominance continued and Andy Lonergan's first save of the afternoon was to stop a volley from David Lopez in the 12th minute. The former Preston North End and Leeds United goalkeeper was beaten eight minutes later, but Andrew Crofts' low shot came back off the post and Wanderers survived.
Brighton's failure to convert their early chances into goals cost them as they were hit with a 21st minute suckerpunch.
A neat move involving Chris Eagles and Lee Chung-Yong ended with the ball being played out to Alonso on the left flank. The Spaniard pushed forward and, with little to aim for in the centre, drilled the ball across the face of the box and into the bottom corner of Kuszczak's goal to give Wanderers the lead.
Alonso's strike gave Bolton the breathing space they needed, while Brighton struggled to get themselves back into the game after their initial early dominance.
In fact, there would only be one further chance before the break and it fell the way of the hosts with just four minutes of the half remaining. Alonso was once again involved, with his low cross from the left picking out the run of David Ngog. The former Liverpool forward raced into the six-yard, but somehow managed to direct his first-time shot over the bar and into the stands.
Wanderers took their lead into the break and with no changes to either side at the break, Brighton looked the more likely goalscorers in the early stages of the second period.
They came agonisingly close to equalising just five minutes after the restart but Lopez's stunning volley from just outside the penalty area flew inches over the top of the Bolton bar, with a beaten Lonergan routed to the spot.
Half chances for Jay Spearing, Chung-Yong and Ngog all came and went for Bolton, before the former saw a speculative 30 yard volley fly well off target.
Lopez tried a volley of his own at the other end but he also failed to get his effort on target, before the game was interupted by a string of substitutions. Will Buckley had earlier replaced Crofts for Brighton, who also decided to bring Andrea Orlandi on in the place of Wayne Bridge. Wanderers also made a chance, with Kamara coming on for Eagles - who walked down the tunnel with a slight limp in his step.
That took the game into the final 20 minutes, which saw Brighton desperately push forward for an equalising goal. Their first attempt fell the way of Barnes, whose snap-shot from the edge of the box fell kindly into the grasp of Lonergan.
Leonardo Ulloa was next to come close for the visitors. A right-wing free-kick from Lopez picked out the unmarked Ulloa inside the Wanderers box. The Brighton forward made a good connection with his head, but somehow put the ball over the top of the bar with the goal gaping.
Brighton then saw appeals for a penalty turned down, with just eight minutes to go. A hopeful punt up-field from Kuszczak fell kindly for Buckley. The former Oldham Athletic and Rochdale youngster ran deep into Wanderers territory before going to ground inside the box under a challenge from Craig Dawson. The 1,000 visiting supporters made their appeals heard, but referee Nigel Miller ordered play to continue.
Gus Poyet's side continued to knock on the door of the Bolton goal and they came close yet again with five minutes remaining. This time, Orlandi cut in from the left and hit a low shot in similar fashion to Alonso's earlier goal. Unfortunately, for the visitors, his strike flashed inches wide of Lonergan's left-hand post and behind to safety.
Freedman's response was to sacrifice the attacking talent of Ngog and add another defender to the mix, in the shape of David Wheater.
A Liam Bridcutt shot proved easy pickings for Lonergan while substitute Craig Davies brought a save out of Kuszczak, after a surging run from Darren Pratley.
Despite all their attempts on goal, Brighton failed to find a way through and were reduced to ten men in the final minute. A moment of madness off the ball from Barnes resulted in him taking a petulant kick at the heels of the referee, who had little alternative but to issue a straight red card.
The Seagulls players made a protest to the match official and, as a result of wasting their own time, Miller blew for full-time and handed Wanderers their fifth successive victory for the first time in more than six years.
The win moves Bolton up one place to 8th in the Championship table, just two points behind Brighton and three shy of sixth-placed Nottingham Forest with only nine games left to play. Wanderers return to action next Saturday when they face Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
Bolton Wanderers: Lonergan, Ricketts, Knight, Dawson, Alonso, Eagles (Medo 70), Spearing, Pratley, Chung-Yong, Ngog (Wheater 86), K Davies (C Davies 75)
Subs Not Used: Lainton, Sordell, Holden, Odelusi
Goals: Alonso 20
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak, Bruno, El-Abd, Upson, Bridge (Orlandi 66), Crofts (Buckley 58), Bridcutt, Barnes, Vicente, Lopez, Ulloa
Subs Not Used: Ankergren, Greer, Hammond, Calderon, Dicker
Sent Off: Barnes
Referee: Nigel Miller
|20||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||47|
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