Goals from Matt Taylor and Johan Elmander maintained Bolton's upward momentum, but it was often West Bromwich Albion who caught the eye in an enterprising encounter yesterday.
Bolton have rightly had praise heaped upon their shoulders for the way they have played this season, but Albion are equally part of a consensus which says that the less well-resourced clubs are better off having a go and trying to play attacking football. They came to the Reebok with a nominal 4-5-1 formation, but caused Wanderers all sorts of problems with the ability of their wide players to get around the outside and Peter Odemwingie's knack of beating the offside trap.
With a tad better luck and a little calmer finishing they would not have been going back to the West Midlands empty-handed.
The Baggies could have taken an early lead when Paul Robinson beat Phil Brunt to a vital header on the far post and they had a series of other promising openings in the first half.
Bolton were slower to get into their stride, although there was one move of real quality, when the outstanding Stuart Holden, Lee Chung-yong and Fabrice Muamba split the Albion defence, only for Elmander, in a finish more reminiscent of last season than this, to fire high and wide.
It was against the run of play when Bolton took the lead with a goal redolent of their supposed "route one" heritage. Jussi Jaaskelainen's long clearance fell for Taylor, who found Lee, in his last game before a likely month's absence at the Asian Cup.
He allowed himself to be force too wide to find the net, but he salvaged the situation by pulling the ball back for Taylor. The former Portsmouth player has always been a goalscorer, but before yesterday had made more attempts on goal without scoring than anyone in the Premier League. He got rid of that unwanted distinction by tucking his chance away.
Albion continued to have more than their share of play after the break and came close to an equaliser when Brunt headed against the post from a cross supplied by Somen Tchoyi. Odemwingie could also have helped himself to a couple on a sharper finishing day, but Bolton made sure of the win they needed at the start of a week that sees them travel to Chelsea and Liverpool with a second goal four minutes from time.
Elmander broke through in the wide right position he increasingly occupies late in games and, though Ivan Klasnic could not force home his cross, the ball came back for Elmander to drill in from a narrowing angle for his ninth goal of the season.
Another welcome statistic for Owen Coyle, who has lifted Bolton from the bottom three to the top six in his first year in charge, was that this was their first clean sheet in the league since the opening day of the season. "I don't think we ever got to our maximum today," he said. "But West Brom were terrific. They made some great chances to score and win the game. We probably played better losing at Sunderland last week, but for us to be able to win today without playing to our best is a good sign for the rest of the season."
Roberto di Matteo admitted to being bemused. "We're coming away scratching our heads," he said. "We had more chances, better chances and we lost."
Subs: Bolton Ricketts (Steinsson, 64), Davies (Muamba, 76), Klasnic (Lee, 80).
West Bromwich Miller (Morrison, 70), Cox (Mulumbu, 85).
Booked: Bolton Cahill. West Bromwich Brunt.
Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Man of the match Holden.
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