It will be of little consolation to Mark Hughes if the farcical decision not to award Clint Hill what was a clear first-half goal for QPR at the Reebok helps nudge the introduction of goalline technology ever closer, and he was rightly furious at his side's lot last night.
The game was goalless after 20 minutes when the full-back met Joey Barton's corner and powered a header that was desperately clawed away by Bolton's goalkeeper, Adam Bogdan. The ball had clearly crossed the line, something television replays confirmed, but referee Martin Atkinson was let down by his assistant Bob Pollock, who missed it.
It could have been a springboard for victory in this relegation scrap but instead was a prelude to defeat and QPR replaced Bolton in the bottom three. Bizarrely, the FA released a statement during the half-time interval saying: "Following last week's meeting of the IFAB [International Football Association Board] the FA would like to reiterate our strong desire to see goalline technology introduced as soon as possible."
That added fuel to Hughes' fire. "All you ask for is the key decisions in games to be judged correctly and they weren't all day long," he said. "The laughable thing is that the FA have come out and said that they are in favour of technology at half-time. That's absolutely ludicrous that they come out and try to protect the poor performances of their officials."
Barton was quickly tweeting his own frustrations. "Big decisions all wrong. Ref saying 'don't blame us blame the FA for not having goal line technology!' We have to be the unluckiest team ever this season."
QPR's co-owner Amit Bhatia joined in, tweeting: "Gutted. the worst possible outcome. We were the better side and didn't deserve that. Too many mistakes like that from officials to be tolerated. Disgusted."
Yet before the controversy, Rangers had started brightly. Djibril Cissé clipped a wonderfully weighted pass into Bobby Zamora's path and his strike thundered against the bar. However, after managing to weather the storm and survive the Hill incident, a beleaguered-looking Wanderers took the lead on 37 minutes. After patient build-up play involving Mark Davies and Martin Petrov, Tim Ream crossed for an unmarked Darren Pratley to plant home a header from inside the six-yard box.
That underlined the fight Hughes has on his hands if he is to keep his team in the top flight. Although poor officiating saw Rangers hard done-by, they failed to score while on top and lacked the concentration to see out the half. Armand Traoré was the culprit for the opening goal, reacting too late to prevent the inevitable.
Hughes prowled the touchline like a man possessed, incensed at the injustice of the goal that wasn't and the surrendering of tactical advantage. He looked furious and re-emerged from half-time with a team full of renewed vigour. It took them just two second-half minutes to level the scores. Shaun Wright-Phillips found a pocket of space and his deflected through ball found Cissé who, with more than a hint of offside, coolly slotted past Bogdan.
For Bolton, Sam Ricketts curled an effort over, substitute Chris Eagles had a free-kick blocked and the impressive Ryo Miyaichi was perilously close to going clean through but for the crucial intervention of Traoré. Bolton manager Owen Coyle – who agreed with Hughes over Hill's "goal" – replaced Pratley with Ivan Klasnic and it worked a treat as he scored a late winner. "We believed it was a game to be won and as a manager sometimes your substitutions come off. We were more positive than we had been, with two natural wingers on the pitch," said Coyle.
Miyaichi, a loanee from Arsenal, showed great awareness to hold the ball up and slipped Klasnic clear to side-foot beyond Paddy Kenny. Hughes was angered again when Atkinson failed to spot that Nedum Onuoha was tripped inside the area in stoppage time. "They missed a handball in the area as well," he said. "In the end I think [the assistant, Pollock] completely lost his nerve to make any decision. In fairness to Martin Atkinson he is one of the better referees and was let down by his assistants."
Bolton (4-5-1): Bogdan; Steinsson, Wheather, Ream, Ricketts; Miyaichi, M Davies, Reo-Coker, Pratley (Klasnic, 79), Petrov (Eagles, 65); Ngog (Muamba, 89).
QPR (4-3-1-2): Kenny; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill, Traore (Taiwo, 79); Diakite, Derry (Mackie, 79), Barton; Wright-Phillips (Buzacky, 79); Zamora, Cisse.
Referee Martin Atkinson.
Man of the match Miyaichi (Bolton).
Match rating 4/10.