John Terry and Damien Duff kept Chelsea's faint title hopes alive with second-half goals at Bolton.
Terry volleyed in from close range after 70 minutes and Duff slid home from six yards three minutes later to end Bolton's brave challenge.
Chelsea were thankful to goalkeeper Mario Ambrosio, in for injured Carlo Cudicini, for a string of fine saves.
He denied Jay-Jay Okocha three times in the first half, but Chelsea rallied to keep the pressure on leaders Arsenal.
Terry will have been particularly delighted, having scored the own goal that gave Bolton victory at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri was forced to draft in Ambrosio with Cudicini and usual deputy Neil Sullivan out injured.
And he excelled in a first-half dominated by Bolton, frustrating Okocka in particular.
Ambrosio was beaten after 11 minutes, but Chelsea were fortunate as Henrik Pedersen's shot struck a post.
He then saved brilliantly from Okocha low to his right after a poor clearance from John Terry, then blocked a point-blank drive from the Nigerian captain.
70 mins: John Terry volleys Chelsea ahead
73 mins: Damien Duff doubles the lead from close range
Okocha was off target twice, then caused problems with a long-throw in the 32nd minute which saw Pedersen blocked by a combination of Ambrosio and Terry in a goalmouth scramble.
Kevin Davies was narrowly off target from 25 yards as Bolton's dominance continued to go unrewarded.
Chelsea had to pose more of a threat after the break - and they did as they finally exerted pressure.
Jussi Jaaskelainen saved brilliantly from Frank Lampard, then Geremi fired just wide before Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink failed to hit the target from 10 yards after 57 minutes.
Ranieri made a change after 65 minutes, replacing the disappointing Hernan Crespo with Joe Cole.
And inside five minutes Chelsea were ahead, courtesy of Terry.
It was the most unlikely of finishes, Terry moving forward in open play to volley home right-footed at the far post when Hasselbaink flicked on Duff's cross.
And Duff doubled Chelsea's advantage in the 73rd minutes, sliding home Hasselbaink's cross from six yards.
Cole had a shot cleared off the line by Simon Charlton in the closing stages, while there was still time for Ambrosio to deny Okocha once more.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Thome, N'Gotty, Charlton, Campo, Giannakopoulos (Ba 77), Nolan, Okocha, Pedersen, Davies.
Subs Not Used: Poole,
Frandsen, Javi Moreno, Howey.
Chelsea: Ambrosio, Gallas, Desailly, Terry, Bridge, Gronkjaer (Huth 89),
Geremi, Lampard, Duff (Parker 90), Hasselbaink, Crespo (Cole 65).
Subs Not Used: Makaba-Makalamby, Melchiot.
Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire)