Wanderers' European campaign was headed for the sidings before it had got properly started when they trailed for much of the match to Boban Jancevski's goal against the run of play, but they suddenly found their confidence in the last quarter of the match when the manager Sam Allardyce made a series of tactical substitutions.
It was two players who had laboured away from the start, however, who produced the equalising goal after 71 minutes. Nicky Hunt found some space on the right wing and, when he got in an early cross, Diouf threw himself ahead of his marker to connect with a diving header that sent the ball sliding into the corner of the net.
After a thoroughly frustrating debut night in the Uefa Cup, many Bolton supporters would probably have settled for a draw to take into the second leg in Bourgas in two weeks' time, but their revitalised side had other ideas.
One of their substitutes, Fabrice Fernandes, had one of his trademark blistering drives tipped over the bar and then, in injury time, the Japanese debutant Hidetoshi Nakata got a glancing header into the path of Borgetti and the prolific Mexican international showed all his experience by steering it into the net past the Bulgarians' goalkeeper, Stoyan Kolev.
Allardyce was straightforward in describing what he had bought Borgetti for. "Goals," the manager said. "He gets in the right positions and that's what we bought him for. If you look at it, he's mishit it but he's mishit it into the net."
Allardyce knows that that mishit could make all the difference to his side's chance of progressing. "In the end it's a fantastic win for us and we're looking forward to the next round," he said. "They've got an away goal but all we have to do is not concede."
Bolton's European adventure had not started well. Although they dominated the first half territorially, their threat, as so often when they are not playing well, was confined to the aerial route. Radhi Jaidi and Bruno N'Gotty had headers which were not far off target and Stelios Giannakopoulos' cross shot was deflected on to the roof of the net, but that was about as good as it got.
Plovdiv, given permission by Uefa to wear black shirts in memory of Georgi Iliev - the club president who was gunned down in what is thought to be a gangland killing the day they qualified for this round of the competition - had come to defend in depth and numbers, but they showed some ability to hit Bolton on the rebound. Jussi Jaaskelainen had a worrying early moment when he fumbled at Jancevski's feet but recovered just in time. He could do nothing about it, however, when the Bulgarians' lone striker put them ahead after 27 minutes.
It was a classic counter-attack, Iljami Halimi steering his pass into the path of the overlapping Vladimir Ivanov, who swept in a low cross. Jancevski got away from his marker and scored with a crisp right-footed shot.
"We committed the ultimate crime of allowing them something to hold on to, which was the thing we'd planned against," said Allardyce. "We gave them a goal and from then on you can't underestimate any side that's playing in the Uefa Cup. They only have to win 1-0 and they go through but what looked like a difficult task for us is now a little easier."
Bolton Wanderers (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, N'Gotty, Jaidi, Pedersen (Borgetti, 57); Okocha (Nolan, 66), Campo, Nakata; Giannakopoulos (Fernandes, 66), Diouf, Gardner. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Davies, Fernandes, O'Brien, Faye.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv (4-5-1): Kolev; Ivanov, Djordani, Kotev, Tunchev; Krizmanic, Iliev (Vandev,, 81), Halimi (Georgiev, h-t), Dimitrov, Petrov; Jancevski (Stoinev, 90). Substitutes not used: Kamburov (gk), Zalatinski, Mihaylov, Vandev, Hristev.
Referee: D Ceferin (Slovenia).Reuse content