Steven Defour played his first competitive football since January to take an important step along the comeback trail in a dramatic game that saw Burnley finish with nine men.
The midfielder completed an hour as an over-age player in the under-23s at the Tameside Stadium.
And his composure and guidance to the youngsters around him played a big part in an eventful win over the defending Professional Development League champions thanks to first-half goals from Daniel Agyei and Dwight McNeil.
They were enough to secure the points and a third win of the season before a chaotic second half which brought red cards for the Burnley pair of Ali Koiki and Christian N’Guessan and Bolton defender Harry Brockbank.
Defour, out since January after a calf injury in pre-season delayed his return from knee surgery, had been constantly involved from his deep-lying central midfield position.
The former Belgium international, as neat as ever on the ball, covered plenty of ground under the watchful eye of first-team coach Tony Loughlan.
And while a return to Premier League action may still be a couple of games away, Defour’s return was a welcome sight as the Clarets look to get back to full strength to aid their recovery from a sluggish start to their domestic campaign.
McNeil, fresh from his first two starts at senior level, was also given a run-out and impressed in a dominant first-half performance before being withdrawn at the break.
It was his excellent angled pass, superbly taken in his stride by Tunde Bayode coming off the opposite flank, that created the opening goal after 35 minutes.
Bayode’s assured touch teed up Agyei and the striker’s quick feet gave him the chance to bury the ball from six yards out.
The Clarets then doubled their lead four minutes before the break when McNeil went it alone, benefitting from Mace Goodridge’s desire to win the ball and another assist from Bayode to drill a low shot across Ben Williams and into the far corner of the net.
McNeil was replaced at the start of second half by Tinashe Chakwana, who had a chance to add to his three goals in the last two games and increase Burnley’s lead.
Breaking clear from a Bolton corner, Chakwana sprinted from his own half but then dragged his shot wide with N’Guessan offering an option inside.
Both sides were then reduced to 10 men after a clash between Koiki and Brockbank.
Brockbank was shown a second yellow card for his part in the altercation, which sparked a mass shoving match involving players from both sides, with Koiki receiving a straight red for swinging an arm in retaliation.
And with 10 minutes to go the Clarets were further reduced when N’Guessan was both stretchered off and dismissed.
He was judged to have caught Bolton midfielder Marcus Wood with a late challenge which left the Burnley man on the floor and requiring lengthy treatment.
N’Guessan was shown the red card as he left the fray but the Clarets survived the closing stages a man down with Anders Lindegaard making a couple of routine saves to preserve his clean sheet and a third home win of the campaign.
Burnley: Lindegaard, Clarke, Cook (Perkins 72), Younger, Koiki, Bayode, Goodridge, N’Guessan, Defour (Glennon 60), McNeil (Chakwana HT), Agyei. Substitutes: Bruce, Yari.
Bolton: Williams, Brockbank, Muscatt, Edwards, Zouma, Earing, Politic, Wood, McKenna, Pritchard, Navarro. Substitutes: Francis, Aspinall, Hartshorne, Jones-Griffiths, Connell.
Referee: David McNamara