The Premiership season got off to a frenetic start at Villa Park with all four goals coming in a fast and furious opening nine minutes.
Kevin Phillips put Villa ahead with a far-post header before Kevin Davies equalised with a close-range volley.
Ivan Campo then headed Bolton 2-1 up from a Gary Speed corner before Steven Davis converted Phillips' pull-back.
Kevin Nolan had a goal disallowed for offside late in the game when replays suggested it should have stood.
Phillips' opener in the fourth minute sparked a spell of four goals in five minutes.
A joyous Villa Park rose to celebrate his first Premiership goal for the club - the culmination of a neat move that saw Nolberto Solano play in Aaron Hughes, who raced down the right flank before crossing to the far post.
Two minutes later the Villa faithful were silenced as Campo climbed highest to head Speed's corner into the ground and up into the roof of the net.
With eight minutes gone Davies hooked the ball into the net on the volley from short range to put Bolton ahead.
And a minute later a bewildering opening phase was completed by a goal of elegant simplicity by the home team.
Gareth Barry's deft pass just outside the Dee found Phillips, who laid the ball back for Davis to volley past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The fun might have continued had Bolton striker Davies not missed after being played through, while Hughes almost put the ball into his own net, forcing Thomas Sorensen to save.
The rest of the half seemed mundane in comparison, notable mainly for some thundering tackles made possible by the greasy surface.
El-Hadji Diouf scythed Jlloyd Samuel to the ground, while the same Villa player went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Nicky Hunt only for referee Mike Riley to wave play on.
Tempers flared after the restart when Campo made a horrendous late tackle on Gavin McCann.
Diouf - by now booed every time he touched the ball - then drove narrowly wide from a tight angle.
Sam Allardyce had left Stelios Giannakopoulos - the subject of a £1m bid from Manchester City - and Jay-Jay Okocha on the bench.
But 10 minutes into the second-half Okocha replaced Campo as Allardyce tried to inject his side with more attacking impetus.
And shortly afterwards a long throw from Okocha fell to Nolan unmarked at the far post, but Sorensen made an excellent save to palm away his header.
Sorensen saved Villa once more - this time a header from Davies - while Nolan headed into the net but was denied a winner by a dubious offside flag.
Aston Villa manager David O'Leary:
"I thought our football was good, particularly in the first half - but against Bolton you have got to defend against set pieces.
"We did not do that and looked vulnerable all through the game - they could have scored more.
"You know what you are going to get all the time and if you don't defend well they will make life hard for you."
Bolton manager Sam Allardyce (on whether Nolan's goal should have stood):
"Yes, without any doubt. It is a major decision that has gone against us.
"It is hugely disappointing as it would have been a super three points to start the season.
"It was, particularly in the second half, a magnificent performance."
Aston Villa: Sorensen, Hughes, Mellberg, Laursen, Samuel, Solano, Davis, McCann, Barry, Angel, Phillips.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Hendrie, Djemba-Djemba, Ridgewell, Moore.
Goals: Phillips 4, Davis 9.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Ben Haim, Jaidi, Gardner, Nolan, Campo (Okocha 54), Speed, Diouf, Davies, Pedersen.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Giannakopoulos, Vaz Te, Diagne-Faye.
Booked: Diouf, Ben Haim.
Goals: Davies 6, Campo 8.
Ref: M Riley (W Yorkshire).