Bolton on brink of survival
Trotters move three points clear of drop zone
Bolton took a giant stride towards securing their Premier League survival with a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Reebok Stadium.
The Black Cats, already safe from relegation, were in no mood to roll over and made life difficult for the Trotters before El-Hadji Diouf broke the deadlock with a classy finish in the 42nd minute.
Sunderland matched Bolton in a tense second half but Kenwyne Jones missed a golden opportunity to equalise with 20 minutes remaining.
Daryl Murphy then headed into his own goal after 83 minutes to take Bolton three points clear of the drop zone.
Gary Megson's men face Chelsea in their final game but they have a superior goal difference to Fulham and Reading and even a heavy defeat at Stamford Bridge might not be enough to send them down.
Megson's men have hit form at just the right time and this was their third win from their last four games.
They were given a massive boost prior to kick-off when news filtered through of Fulham's 2-0 win over Birmingham and Reading's 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Tottenham.
Thus Bolton knew victory over Sunderland would move them three points clear of the relegation zone with only one game remaining.
Not surprisingly, Bolton's most potent threat came from set-pieces and long punts up to striker Kevin Davies, back in the side after serving a two-match ban.
One such delivery was typically flicked on by Davies in the 13th minute and appeared to be blocked by Sunderland defender Jonny Evans' arm.
Referee Martin Atkinson ignored the home claims for a penalty but the Trotters began to steadily build momentum.
Bolton continued to enjoy success down Sunderland's left flank and in the 28th minute a delightful cross from Diouf found Davies unmarked at the far post.
Davies flexed his neck muscles to connect firmly but he could not control his header and the ball flew over Craig Gordon's crossbar.
There was a scare for Bolton two minutes later when Kenwyne Jones collected possession on the left side of the home penalty area.
He showed no little strength to hold off the challenge of Gretar Steinsson and engineer the space to drill in a low right-foot shot from 16 yards which flew straight into Ali Al Habsi's midriff.
Diouf was clearly determined to sign off in style three minutes before the interval the breakthrough arrived in stunning fashion.
Nolan collected possession on the right flank and steadied himself before flighting over an inch-perfect cross to Diouf, unmarked at the far post just six yards from goal.
Diouf controlled the ball expertly with his first touch and his second was lethal as he sidefooted the ball past Gordon and into the roof of the net.
Bolton remained largely dominant after the restart and they fashioned a clear-cut opening when Matthew Taylor crossed from the left and Diouf saw his diving header deflected for a corner by Danny Collins.
Keane had seen enough by the hour mark and made a triple substitution which almost reaped dividends in the 70th minute.
Roy O'Donovan, one of Keane's substitutes, headed Andy Reid's deep cross straight into Jones' path but he could not connect with the goal at his mercy.
However, Bolton put the result beyond doubt eight minutes from time as Murphy's flicked header from a home corner flew past Gordon and although Reid hacked the ball off the line, the goal was rightly given.
Bolton Wanderers Team Statistics Sunderland
2 Goals 0
1 1st Half Goals 0
1 Shots on Target 2
4 Shots off Target 2
1 Blocked Shots 2
3 Corners 1
11 Fouls 14
1 Offsides 1
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
65.3 Passing Success 69
10 Tackles 22
60 Tackles Success 81.8
46.4 Possession 53.6
57.7 Territorial Advantage 42.3