Ten-man bolton's refusal to be cowed by any kind of mishap earned them a win to further burnish their top-six credentials. Wanderers could have been knocked out of their stride by Mark Davies' sending-off after 55 minutes for a second bookable foul.
Instead, they turned that blow into a positive, took the lead, lost it and immediately grabbed the winner through Stuart Holden; yet another victory for the club's current 'can-do' attitude.
The drama began when Davies, already booked for a first-half foul on Martin Olsen, went into a challenge on Phil Jones with a raised forearm. Mark Clattenburg immediately showed him a second yellow card but, instead of going into their shell, Bolton somehow summoned up an extra degree of self-belief.
Within 10 minutes, they were ahead, thanks to a first goal of the season from Fabrice Muamba, only on the field because of the reshuffle following Davies' dismissal. Sam Ricketts launched a free-kick and, while Kevin Davies did not exactly win it in the air, he made it very difficult for anyone else to win it. The ball ran to Muamba, who won himself some space to fire home from an angle. Blackburn mounted a siege after that, with Jaaskelainen doing particularly well to deny Mame Diouf with a brave block.
He could do nothing, however, when Roberts fed Mame Diouf three minutes from the end of normal time and Rovers appeared to have earned a draw. That draw lasted for mere seconds.
Direct from the kick-off, Paul Robinson, having his best game for Bolton at left-back, found the head of Kevin Davies, whose contribution also included a clearance off the line from a Chistopher Samba effort. Kevin Davies nodded down for Holden, back after a two-match injury absence, to smash in left-footed. There was still an interminable six minutes of extra time, but Bolton were not to be denied their first home defeat of Blackburn since 2000
"We passed the ball better with 10 men," said Owen Coyle, who paid tribute to his side's attitude in adversity. "Their first instinct was to go forward and try to win it, even with 10 men. It was a huge decision to leave Fabrice out. He's started every game since January for me. He could have sulked, but instead he came on and scored a wonderful goal." Sam Allardyce was far from pleased with his side. "Sick is an understatement," he said. "We defended like a bunch of old women. I'm sick they went down to 10 men, because, with 11, I thought we were going to go on and win it."
Allardyce had come back to his old club with a side carrying the burden of a dismal away record, but a habit of beating Bolton at the Reebok. Having shipped seven goals in their last away match, against Manchester United, it was no huge surprise that Allardyce should include Olsson as an extra defender.
Coyle signalled his intentions by leaving Muamba, his regular holding midfielder, on the bench and starting with both Holden and Mark Davies. It was the sort of tactical boldness that has served Wanderers well so far this season. Those attacking ambitions and a couple of dangerous crosses from Martin Petrov ensured that all the early momentum was with Bolton. Petrov also had a free-kick saved and then shot wide with his weaker right foot. The Bulgarian was substituted on 77 minutes to his obvious displeasure.
The pressure Rovers were under was emphasised by Phil Jones' booking for clipping Elmander's heels as he raced through. At the other end, the only serious work Jaaskelainen had to do was a save from a glanced back-header by his own defender, Zat Knight.
That picture almost changed radically in the 33rd minute. Jason Roberts, a serial pest to Bolton defences, was bearing down on goal. Knight felled him at the cost of a booking and Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick went through a gap in the wall.
Jaaskelainen could only parry it, but the rebound came too quickly for Gael Givet, who volleyed high and wide.
It was not to be the last pivotal moment in which the game went away from Blackburn.
Substitutes: Bolton Muamba (Lee, 58), Taylor (Petrov, 77). Blackburn M-B Diouf (Olsson, 61), Dunn (Salgado, 72), Hoilett (E-H Diouf, 77). Booked: Bolton Cahill, Knight, Ricketts, M Davies Blackburn Olsson, Nelsen, Jones.
Sent off: M Davies.
Man of the match Holden.
Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).