A 79th minute goal by substitute Kevin Nolan saved Bolton's blushes in their FA Cup third round tie at Tranmere Rovers.
The Premiership outfit, with less than a handful of regulars in their line-up, were often outplayed by a Tranmere side which belied its Nationwide Division Two status.
Rovers created by far the better chances but paid for some below-par finishing. Kevin Poole in the Wanderers goal also made some important saves.
Henrik Pedersen was immense for Bolton and was there was also some good work from Delroy Facey.
Tranmere produced an inspired all-round team performance with a back to form Simon Haworth emerging with most credit.
Bolton could easily have snatched an early lead with Facey seeing a third minute shot come back off a post.
Then it was Tranmere's turn with Poole doing well to turn aside a snap shot by Haworth in the 13th minute.
Then a minute later Haworth headed onto the top of the bar from a Gareth Roberts cross.
Tranmere continued to have the better of things but Poole came to Bolton's rescue with an excellent diving save from Haworth following good work by Ryan Taylor.
Wanderers found their feet approaching half time but both Anthony Barness and Stelios Giannakopoulos blazed over.
Barness also missed the target from 25 yards and Jeff Smith wasted a good chance when firing well over from close range.
Per Frandsen joined the action for Bolton straight after half time but it was Tranmere who went ahead in the 51st minute.
Skipper Micky Mellon hit the right-hand post from a David Beresford cross but the ball fell to Haworth who fired home into the empty net.
Bolton should have been level three minutes later but Pedersen failed to connect with a deflected Danny Livesey header in front of a gaping goal.
The Merseysiders had their chances to make the game safe but a Haworth shot was beaten out by Poole in the 69th minute and five minutes later Haworth headed over from a Beresford cross.
Then Iain Hume was put clear by Mellon but hesitated with his shot and Poole saved.
Bolton grabbed an unlikely equaliser in the 79th minute after a quick break out of defence.
Nolan, who had replaced Ibrahim Ba in the 70th minute, gained possession and, after getting the better of Graham Allen, beat keeper John Achterberg with an excellent low shot into his right-hand corner from the edge of the box.
Tranmere refused to lie down and continued to make life difficult for Bolton with Allen missing a good opportunity when heading over from a Mellon corner.
Pedersen had a chance to win it for Bolton in the 90th minute when he got clear but his angled effort was blocked by Achterberg.
Then Facey went down under a challenge but looked in vain for a penalty.
Roberts, Gary Jones and Paul Linwood all collected cautions for the home side who will now look forward to a money-spinning replay the week after next.