A late Mark Beevers’ winner sealed a narrow 1-0 victory for Bolton Wanderers against Rochdale at the Macron Stadium.
Wanderers moved to within two points of the League One automatic promotion places after the win.
Centre-back Beevers was the first to react to a goal-line scramble after 83 minutes to close the gap on Scunthorpe United.
During a quiet start to proceedings under the floodlights in an all Greater Manchester clash, neither side could fully grasp the initiative.
When a half chance did arise, Gary Madine’s header from Andrew Taylor’s teasing cross from the left was deflected away by Niall Canavan.
With nine minutes to play until the interval, Jay Spearing’s corner found Madine, though the forward saw his header superbly clawed away by goalkeeper Ben Wilson, while Adam Le Fondre’s volley on the turn was thwarted.
Buoyed by an upturn in play, Phil Parkinson’s men went close once more. Again, Wanderers threatened from a set-piece situation when play dropped for Liam Trotter, who diverted the ball towards goal, only for Mark Kitching to clear off the line.
In the closing stages of the first-half, Dale looked to make in-roads into an attacking area, though Bolton’s back-line remained resolute. Shortly after, the hosts were dealt a blow when Taylor limped off injured, subsequently being replaced by Dean Moxey.
The second-half commenced with Rochdale taking the contest to Bolton. Oliver Rathbone profited from positive build-up play to arrow a low effort from the right side of the box that flashed past Ben Alnwick’s far post.
Minutes later, Alnwick had to be alert to keep out Ian Henderson’s close-range volley, as Keith Hill’s Spotland outfit ramped up the pressure.
By stark contrast to the previous half, the game was turning into an end-to-end tussle. Spearing lashed wide, prior to Moxey going close after a corner dropped to him, drilling an enticing ball through a sea of players that drifted narrowly wide.
As both teams chased that elusive opener, Wanderers’ industrious winger, Filipe Morais, cut inside from the right, his ball found Le Fondre, but was scrambled to safety.
Skipper Henderson then had two openings for Dale, however Alnwick was equal to both of the shots on goal.
Wanderers finally broke the deadlock with 83 minutes played. Spearing’s corner from the right was met by Madine’s looping header, a goal-line scramble caused chaos, involving several players, and it would be Beevers who got the decisive touch, turning the ball over the line.
Despite late pressure from Dale, Bolton hung onto claim a massive win in the race for automatic promotion.
While Bolton remain in third position, Rochdale drop to ninth following their narrow defeat.
Bolton: Alnwick, Osede, Wheater, Beevers, Morais, Trotter (Thorpe, 85), Spearing, Vela, Taylor (Moxey, 45), Le Fondre (Long, 63) and Madine. Subs not used: Dervite, Solomon-Otabor, Howard and Wilkinson.
Rochdale: Wilson, Rafferty (Mendez-Laing, 85), Canavan, Keane, Kitching, McGahey, Rathbone (Camps, 85), Allen, Thompson (Vincenti, 78), Andrew and Henderson. Subs not used: McNulty, Noble-Lazarus, Redshaw and Logan.
Attendance: 13,313 (864)
Referee: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire)