A first derby defeat of the season cost Burnley the chance to make up ground in the play-off race as Bolton came from behind to ease their worries at the other end of the table.
A rare goal from David Edgar – only his third in a Burnley shirt – had set the Clarets on their way to a possible double over their Lancashire rivals following last August’s opening day win.
But having also beaten Blackpool and drawn with Blackburn in the first half of the season, Burnley’s unbeaten derby run was ended by goals from substitutes Craig Davies and David N’Gog as the Clarets’ lead lasted only 11 minutes.
For the second week running Sean Dyche’s side had let an advantage slip and this time there was to be no late escape as a disappointing second-half performance extended the Clarets’ winless run to three games as they slipped to eighth place in the Championship.
Despite visiting the Reebok Stadium for only the third time, the Clarets quickly made themselves at home in a confident opening which saw them move the ball around and take the game to a Bolton side without a Championship win since the turn of the year.
Had Darren Pratley not made a superb run and block to deny Chris McCann as he looked to capitalise on a well-worked corner routine between Dean Marney and Ross Wallace with a quarter of an hour gone, the Trotters’ fragile confidence might have been further dented.
But in fairness to the fallen ‘giants’ – still apparently struggling to come to terms with last season’s relegation and the subsequent sacking of former Burnley boss Owen Coyle – their response reflected a side that has at least been difficult to beat on their own ground.
In on-loan Belgian winger Steve De Ridder, Bolton had a threatening outlet down their right-hand side and even though Danny Lafferty stood up well to the test, a corner conceded by the Northern Ireland international almost saw Burnley go behind in the 25th-minute.
Fellow new recruit Craig Dawson peeled off to win a header which he directed just wide and with Bolton looking dangerous from set-plays, the West Bromwich Albion defender then forced Lee Grant to block from another far-post header five minutes later.
Former Burnley favourite Chris Eagles also fired just wide, while the Clarets’ were increasingly forced to look to make a break-through on the counter-attack as Bolton stepped up the pressure before half-time.
But following a tweak during the interval from Dyche which saw Wallace tuck inside and Danny Ings take up a wide position, the Clarets regain the initiative.
And ten minutes into the second half they struck to take a 1-0 lead and darken the mood around the Reebok.
An excellent move ended with Wallace forcing a corner and while Bolton dealt with the first one they were sunk at the second time of asking.
A deep corner from Junior Stanislas was headed back by McCann and Edgar showed the strength and awareness at the far post to nod the ball past Bogdan from no more than four yards out.
Bolton boss Dougie Freedman reacted with a double substitution which didn’t go down well with the home fans as De Ridder and Marvin Sordell made way.
But the switch paid off just eight minutes later as Davies pounced to steer a fine glancing header from Chung-Yong in off the underside of the bar to level the scores.
It was the former Barnsley striker’s first goal since his January move and moments later he almost doubled his tally.
Fellow substitute N’Gog was also involved as he threaded a pass through for Davies, who was on-side but couldn’t beat Grant who came out to make a vital save.
The goalkeeper then almost blotted his copybook when dropping a free-kick for Dawson to fire in another effort which was blocked by a wall of claret and blue in front of goal.
And Burnley were suddenly having to dig deep to keep a revitalised home side at bay as Freedman played his final card by throwing on Kevin Davies to go in search of maximum points in their battle to beat the drop.
Davies didn’t make the direct difference but the added firepower worked the trick as Burnley cracked again to concede a winner with eight minutes to go.
Grant’s fine save from a Marco Alonso free-kick repelled the initial thrust but when Burnley couldn’t clear the resulting throw-in N’Gog reacted quickest to a mis-cued effort from Jay Spearing to steer a low shot past a wrong-footed Grant and into the bottom corner.
The Clarets’ only response was a Stanislas effort that floated just wide and with the added presence of Sam Vokes unable to force an opening, Burnley’s wait for a win at their near neighbours extended to 28 years.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Lafferty, Edgar, Shackell, Marney, McCann, Wallace (Paterson 70), Austin, Ings (Vokes 83), Stanislas (Treacy 90). Subs: Long, Mills, Stock, Jensen.
Booked: Trippier 84, Shackell 90
Bolton: Bogdan, Mears, Knight, Dawson, Alonso, Spearing, Pratley, De Ridder (C Davies 58), Eagles (K Davies 79), Chung-Yong, Sordell (N’Gog 58). Subs: Ricketts, Ream, Vela, Lonergan.
Booked: Knight 33
Referee: Chris Foy