Bolton settled quickly, barely betraying the tension of such a key fixture with Claus Jensen and Per Frandsen winning the key midfield battles and using their possession wisely to open space on the flanks.
The depth of penetration forced the Wolves back line into a string of heroic clearances, but the woodwork was their real saviour when Andy Todd, without a goal all season, struck low and hard from Michael Johansen's corner. Then Bob Taylor almost capped a fine move as Bolton broke speedily from a corner at the other end and Frandsen's swinging low cross just eluded him.
Robbie Keane, Wolves' top scorer this season, lacked the composure to put his team ahead in their first meaningful move when, after rounding goalkeeper Steve Banks, he fired over from a tight angle.
Bolton's opener, when it came, was of the highest order with Jensen darting right to left through midfield and weighting his pass perfectly for Ricardo Gardner to strike over Mike Stowell and in off the underside of the bar.
Galvanised, no doubt, by some strong half-time words, the visitors flew out of the blocks after the break, forcing Bolton's defence on to the back foot, but their equaliser was utterly avoidable. Jimmy Phillips had ample time to clear a harmless-looking through ball only for Steve Corica to hustle round him and clip a shot over a disbelieving Banks.
Although only a fine Paul Warhurst tackle stopped Keane taking the points for Wolves, Bolton will feel the unluckier as Gardner's deflected shot struck the crossbar in the dying moments, before Neil Cox forced Stowell into a fine parrying save.
Bolton Wanderers (4-4-2): Banks; Cox, Todd, Bergsson (Warhurst, 66), Phillips (Elliott, 81); Johansen, Jensen, Frandsen, Gardner; Taylor, Gudjohnsen (Hansen, 81).
Wolverhampton Wanderers (4-5-1): Stowell; Muscat, Richards, Curle, Gilkes; Corica, Robinson, Osborn, Sedgley, Emblen; Keane (Flo, 86). Substitutes not used: Simpson, Bull.
Referee: P Taylor (Cheshunt).