Fleetwood’s 18 match mammoth unbeaten run juddered to a halt as they were derailed by a bruising Bolton side.
A touch of fortune aided Phil Parkinson’s giants as Adam Le Fondre’s fluke opener whirled in but Bolton out-muscled Town across the pitch and schooled them on set-pieces.
After their good fortune they executed a set-piece routine to perfection with dead ball specialist Filipe Morias putting the ball on a plate for David Wheater at the back stick.
Kyle Dempsey gave Town hope as he reduced the deficit with a fine strike in the 22nd minute but Bolton killed the game just two minutes into the second half with Mark Beevers on the end of another Morias free-kick.
Another peach of a cross from Morias was nodded in by Le Fondre with 12 minutes left but Bobby Grant scored his third in as many games in the 87th minute as Town played some of their best football of the game when it was too late with the clock ticking down.
Despite their 18-match unbeaten run ending and losing their first league game at home since September Town still held on to second spot in the table as Scunthorpe let a two goal lead slide to lose 3-2 at Gillingham with the race for automatic promotion still wide open with 10 games to go.
Fleetwood boss Uwe Rosler made two changes from the side that won 2-0 at Scunthorpe last weekend.
Amari’i Bell returned from injury to slot in for Joe Maguire at left wing-back with Victor Nirennold chosen for the right wing-back role due to his height as he came in for Markus Schwabl with Conor McLaughlin moving into a central midfield role.
Rosler’s side could not handle the physicality and set-pieces of Phil Parkinson’s giant side but just seconds after Ball nearly found a way through it was a slice of luck that saw the Wanderers fortuitously take the lead as Le Fondre’s cross from the right looped over a scrambling Cairns in the 17th minute.
It was two just three minutes later as Town gave away another cheap free-kick as Bolton’s giants continued to tumble with ease at the slightest of touches and they executed the free-kick with precision.
Filipe Morias’ pin-point set-piece sailed over a host of red shirts before falling at the feet of David Wheater who rifled the ball home from close range.
Dempsey ensured Town were not dead and buried as he picked up a loose ball and rocketed home his first goal for the club.
Town rode their luck as the half wore on with Madine and Wheater both rattling the woodwork and Cairns pulling off a fine finger tip save to stop Madine as Rosler’s men continued to crumble in the air and on the pitch as Cole went down holding his foot just before the break with Ash Hunter making an early entrance.
The fight-back the bumper crowd was hoping for at the start of the second half was quashed just two minutes in as Bolton restored their two goal lead with an almost carbon copy of their second with Beevers smashing the ball home at the back post.
It could have been worse thanks to a moment of madness from Cairns who strolled out of his box and tried to race past Le Fondre, he lost the ball but Morais could only fire the ball wide with an open goal at his mercy 35-yards out.
Town huffed and puffed but ultimately failed to find a way through and it was Bolton who got the all important fifth goal of the game as another Morias cross was nodded home by Le Fondre in the 78th minute.
Grant popped up with a consolation goal in the 87th minute as his determination saw him sneak in and curl the ball home.
Hunter found space and stung Ben Alnwick’s palms but with four minutes added time on the clock an unlikely comeback was not on the cards as Town lost their first match at fortress Highbury since they fell to a 4-1 defeat to MK Dons back in September.
Fleetwood: Cairns, Nirennold (Glendon, 51), Eastham, Bolger, Davies, Bell (Branngan, 71), Dempsey, McLaughlin, Grant, Ball, Cole (Hunter, 43). Subs not used: Neal, Ekpolo, Schwabl, Maguire.
Bolton: Alnwick, Dervite, Beevers, Vela (Trotter, 82), Madine, Osede, Taylor, Pratley (Karacan, 80), Morias, Wheater, Le Fondre. Subs not used: Howard, Moxey, Solomon Otabor, Clayton, Henry.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan)