Nathan Blake's near post header from Scott Sellars's corner put Bolton ahead - it was his 14th goal of the season - but then Barnsley's Neil Redfearn played the captain's part. He equalised from a penalty given away by John Sheridan's rash challenge and then fired in a right-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area.
With two minutes remaining, Alan Thompson's seventh goal of the season gave Bolton parity, but they had yet another scare when Paul Wilkinson's "winner" was ruled out for a foul on the goalkeeper Keith Branagan.
Second-placed Crystal Palace were ahead after five minutes at lowly Grimsby but lost 2-1, the Mariners' second win against south London opposition in four days. Fourth-placed Sheffield United also lost, 1-0 at QPR, ending Rangers' run of three defeats. Swindon, too, had lost three in a row but beat Reading 3-1.
The Portsmouth chairman Terry Venables saw Pompey beat depleted Stoke 1-0 but the new Norwich City director, Delia Smith, will have a sour taste in her mouth after the Canaries lost 1-0 at home to Birmingham. Martin O'Conor, signed in the week from Peterborough, scored for Brum but Steve Sutton's penalty save from Robert Fleck in the dying minutes was as important. Norwich have won for five games. Mr Dependability, the Tranmere player- manager John Aldridge, scored twice for fifth-placed Rovers as they beat Ipswich 3-1.
In the Second Division, third-placed Bury lost 4-3 at Bristol Rovers. Peter Beadle scored a hat-trick for the Pirates. Wrexham moved into fourth after a 1-0 win over bottom club Wycombe. Craig Skinner's winner came after only 45 seconds. Crewe beat Shrewsbury 5-1 and Peterborough underlined Rotherham's relegation credentials in a 6-2 thrashing.
Third Division leaders Fulham kept themselves aloof from the pursuing riff-raff by beating Brighton, lowliest of the low, 2-0 at Craven Cottage, Mike Conroy scoring his 17th goal of the season. But the biggest winners of the day were Colchester who walloped less than impish Lincoln 7-1 at Layer Road. Clearly, what Lincoln needed was the security afforded by a former international goalkeeper.
Step forward Peter Shilton, 47, holder of 125 full England caps. He made his 997th League appearance and kept a clean sheet for Third Division strugglers Leyton Orient as they beat Cardiff 3-0. On loan Carl Griffiths scored Orient's first and new signing Scott McGleish, from Peterborough, made it 2-0. Andy Arnott got the third before Griffiths and, later, Cardiff's Keith O'Halloran were sent off.