Fleetwood were a whisker away from ending Bolton’s winning streak as Victor Nirennold blasted over in the dying seconds instead of rippling the back of the net in front of the expectant pocket of Town fans and securing a deserved point for Uwe Rosler’s men.
It was an enthralling first half at the Macron for the 500 plus Cod Army but not for the home fans who were disgusted by referee Darren England’s decision to award a free-kick instead of a penalty when Nirrenold felled Mark Davies at the top of the box.
But that anger at the referee turned to boos and groans at their own players as discontent rumbled around the stadium due to sloppy Bolton passes and their sides inability to handle Fleetwood’s lightening quick attack.
Just seconds after star man Zac Clough limped off Fleetwood took the lead as David Ball fired in his third goal in as many games as he latched on to Hunter’s neat pass in the box.
But after a probable ear bashing at the break from new boss Phil Parkinson the Wanderers came out fighting in the second half and levelled in the 51st minute.
Town failed to clear a corner and it fell plum to big Bolton hit-man Gary Madine who diverted the ball past Chris Neal.
And after failing to clear their lines a second time substitute Kaiyne Woolery slipped the ball to Josh Vela in the 84th minute after Bolton had bombarded Town’s box.
Fleetwood should have bagged a deserved point in the dying embers of injury time as Bolton keeper Mark Howard dropped the ball allowing Nathan Pond to tee-up Nirennold but it was not to be as the midfielder fired over with the goal at his mercy as Town’s unbeaten run came to a halt.
The result sees Bolton retain their grip at the top of the League One table with Town slipping to 12th.
Just days after signing a new three-year deal 20-year-old striker Ash Hunter was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up.
He came in for Devante Cole and Rosler made one further change with Bobby Grant moving to the bench and Victor Nirennold recalled to the starting XI as Rosler again opted for his favoured 4-3-3 formation.
The big news for Bolton was the return of Clough to the starting line-up but that joy was short-lived as he limped off just after the half hour mark.
Former Fleetwood striker Jamie Proctor picked up a knock in the Wanderers’ midweek win at Bristol Rovers and so did not get a chance to take on his former car school buddy and Town centre half Nathan Pond for the first time since his exit in January.
Fleetwood started brightly with Long, Hunter and Ball linking-up well but failing to create any clear cut chances.
Despite their early dominance Town were lucky the referee did not award a penalty to the hosts in the 10th minute.
Pond just nipped the ball away from Mark Davies’ foot but Nirennold at the top of the box looked to have tripped Davies as he tried to clear.
The referee blew his whistle and the whole of the Macron was expecting him to point to the spot but much to the home faithfuls disgust and the travelling Town’s fans’ relief he gave Fleetwood a free-kick inside the box.
Neat defensive play by Jimmy Ryan in his own box helped free McLaughlin to bound into space on the overlap on the right wing. With all three forwards buzzing around McLaughlin lifted a peach of a ball in towards Ball, the striker stretched and just managed to get a toe to it but he could only direct it straight at Howard one-on-one.
Town’s full-backs were both caught in possession on opposite flanks but Bolton could not punish the errors.
Vela robbed Bell on the right before playing a neat-one-two with Madine but his shot was deflected wide by recovering centre half Eastham.
Within minutes Dean Moxey picked McLaughlin’s pocket in the corner of Town’s box before curling the ball way wide.
Hunter’s long range bullet was parried by Howard into the path of Long who slipped the ball to Nirennold but with cluster of bodies in the box he fired straight at his own man David Ball.
Bolton’s danger man Zach Clough limped off in the 33rd minute and Town struck moments later.
McLaughlin pumped the ball into the box from the right it was cleared to left-back Moxey in the box but Hunter nipped in, pinched the ball off his toes and slid the ball into the path of Ball who’s right-footed rocket fizzed home after crashing in off the keeper’s face.
Up the other end Neal was called upon to make a key save as he came off his line to meet the on-running Woolery and block the substitute’s effort and as the half wore on Moxey wasted a free header at the back stick as he nodded the ball down and into Neal’s welcoming arms.
The in-form Ball should have made it two in the dying embers of the first 45 as he found himself one-on-one but his 10-yard curler was just tipped away by the diving Howard’s left palm.
But it was to be a game of two halves as a the wounded Bolton side came out fighting and peppered Town’s box with a number of long balls whipped in to the mix towards burly attacker Madine and company.
Bolton looked reinvigorated after the break and Madine nearly gave them the perfect start as his header looked destined to fly into the bottom corner but Neal had the reflexes of a cat as he pounced low to his left and tipped the ball away in the 46th minute.
But the keeper was beaten five minutes later as Bell managed to get a leg to divert Wheater’s header off the line but the clearance fell into the path of Madine and the big striker rifled the ball home through a splattering of red and white shirts.
McLaughlin robbed a white shirt deep in the Bolton half, slipped the ball to Ball who fizzed it sideways to Jonsson on his right but in what was to be his last kick of the game he fired the ball straight at Howard.
With Bolton on top Rosler freshened things up as he sent Aaron Amadi-Holloway on for Hunter and Grant on for Jonsson.
Seconds later Long forced Howard into a fine diving save as hit curling effort from just outside the save flew towards goal.
But the white tide continued to flow as Town faced a mighty Bolton bombardment.
Neal and Pond somehow rescued Town when a Bolton second looked inevitable in the 70th minute.
Woolery’s initial shot was blocked by Pond but the ball fizzed back to the striker who’s second attempt was batted away by Neal but only to Davies seven-yards out who drilled the ball straight at Neal.
Amadi-Holloway tripped Davies on the corner of the box and Spearing curled the subsequent set-piece just over the bar.
Long was felled by Spearing from behind just inside Bolton’s half as he engineered another counter-attack.
The feisty on-loan Burnley man was not happy with the challenge and in the aftermath of the bad tackle the duo squared up and both ended up in the referee’s book.
After absorbing Bolton’s pressure Town started to find space to pass and counter in the final 10 minutes but despite some nice play their final ball was not up to scratch and a number of good moves came to nothing.
But Grant nearly rattled in a winner as his thunderous long range effort was just tipped over by Howard.
After weathering an almighty Bolton storm it was not to be for Town as they wasted a set-piece in Bolton’s half with Ryan playing it short to Bell on the left instead of whipping it into the mix.
Fleetwood ended up losing the ball and when Bolton bombed forward Town failed to clear their lines with substitute Wilkinson nodding the ball towards Woolery who dithered on the ball before Vela steamed in to slam the ball past Neal.
Substitute Cole tried his luck from distance as time tumbled away but Fleetwood did get one final chance to level in injury time and Town midfielder Nirennold’s dreams will be haunted by his glaring late miss.
Just seconds before the referee blew the full-time whistle Howard dropped Ryan’s ball in Pond in an advanced position scrambled the ball to Nirennold with the keeper off his line.
All the midfielder needed to do was hit the target to level but he sent the ball and all hoped of what would have been a deserved point crashing over the bar.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Eastham, Pond, Bell, Nirennold, Jonsson (Amadi-Holloway, 60), Ryan, Long, Hunter (Grant, 60), Ball (Cole, 77). Subs not used: Cairns, Kip, Bolger, Duckworth, Cole.
Bolton: Howard, Buxton, Moxey, Beevers, Vela, Spearing, Clough (Woolery, 33), Madine (Wilkinson, 80), Davies, Trotter, Wheater. Subs not used: Amos, Taylor, Osede, Taylor, Wilson.
Referee: Darren England
Attendance: 13524 (538 Fleetwood)