Kevin Nolan maintained his bid for a place in England's World Cup squad with his 11th goal of the season as Bolton condemned the bottom side to their 24th League defeat and maintained their push for a second successive European campaign.
Nolan put the game out of Sunderland's reach with the second goal six minutes from time after Kevin Davies had opened the scoring in the 47th minute, ending the resistance of Sunderland's goalkeeper, Kelvin Davis.
Bolton deserved their success after taking a grip on the match from the start. Davies saw a close-range header blocked on the line and Ricardo Vaz Te twice went close in quick succession midway through the first half.
Soon after the Portuguese youngster's near misses, it took a superb reaction save by Davis to keep out another point-blank header by Davies and prevent Sunderland going behind. The goalkeeper was back in action eight minutes before the interval when he raced out to save from Vaz Te, who had been put through by Bolton's Nigerian playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha.
Sunderland's rearguard action finally failed them two minutes after the break when Davies headed in a corner by Stelios Giannakopoulos for his fifth goal of the season.
Sunderland rallied and two minutes later Kenny Miller tested Jussi Jaaskelainen with a shot from the edge of the area, but then Bolton almost added a second when Gary Speed shot just wide from Okocha's corner.
With only one goal in it, Sunderland were still in with a chance of getting something from the game. However, Nolan made it 2-0 in the 84th minute when he clipped the ball home at the far post after Davis had parried Speed's effort.
There a still time for Davis to make a marvellous block from Speed but it is too late for Sunderland heroics.Reuse content