Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his second winner for Manchester United in a week to close the gap at the top of the Premiership to seven points.
Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha celebrate the winner
Van Nistelrooy tucked home his 150th goal for the club from close range after a late cross from strike partner Louis Saha at Bolton.
Saha had fired United's equaliser, curling the ball past Jussi Jaaskelainen from a tight angle.
Kevin Davies had earlier put Bolton ahead after racing through.
Saha certainly justified his inclusion with his well-taken effort 12 minutes before the break.
It was a just reward for United's early effort and they should have taken the lead before Davies found the target for the home side.
They looked to take advantage of striker Henrik Pedersen being fielded as an emergency left-back and their first opening came after a break on that flank, initiated by Gary Neville.
The ball eventually fell to Ryan Giggs on the edge of the box and Jussi Jaaskelainen must have feared the worst when he pushed the Welshman's shot straight out to Wayne Rooney.
However, the England striker was unable to take advantage as the Finnish keeper reacted well to save a second goalbound effort.
But United were caught unawares in the 26th minute when Kevin Nolan slipped the ball through to Davies and the chance opened up for him after he knocked the ball between Rio Ferdinand's legs.
Edwin van der Sar was left exposed and dived the wrong way as the former Southampton striker tucked the ball into the corner.
The news would have delighted any Chelsea fan concerned about United's recent good form forcing them into the championship picture but it did not take them long to get back on terms.
Silvestre guided the ball inside the Bolton defence and there was plenty for Saha to do with the angle appearing tight.
However, the French centre forward elected to use the outside of his left foot to guide the ball into the far corner to bring the Red Devils level.
Neither side was able to carve out a meaningful opening in the early stages of the second half as their efforts going forward tended to cancel each other out.
They were restricted to attempting efforts from outside the box with van der Sar being equal to an effort from Jay-Jay Okocha and Cristiano Ronaldo fired narrowly over from a similar position at the other end.
The half livened up after van Nistelrooy, who had finally entered the fray, was denied a penalty after a challenge from Tal Ben Haim.
Saha had a chance when he was played through by Ronaldo and van Nistelrooy also lifted the ball over when well placed.
But he was in a perfect position when Saha broke free to knock in United's second goal with 11 minutes remaining, tapping the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
Bolton manager Sam Allardyce:
"I was pleased with the way we played but their front line was very difficult to play against and we showed a couple of pieces of naivety.
"A 1-1 draw would have been a fantastic result for us against a team that is in great form but they saw Chelsea's result earlier in the day and decided to go for it.
"We went to try and win it as well but we just left too many gaps at the back."
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson:
"It was a great result on a difficult pitch and it sets us up for a massive game against Arsenal next week.
"We have closed the gap but seven points is still very big and it is still Chelsea's to throw away.
"They have got to come here in a couple of weeks when the pitch will be even worse and they have also got to go to Blackburn."
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, O'Brien (Hunt 74), Ben Haim, N'Gotty, Pedersen, Faye, Nolan, Okocha, Speed (Diouf 87), Giannakopoulos, Davies (Borgetti 87).
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Nakata.
Goals: Davies 26.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Silvestre, Ronaldo (Park 90), O'Shea, Giggs, Fletcher (van Nistelrooy 61), Rooney, Saha. Subs Not Used: Howard, Evra, Pique.
Booked: Ronaldo, Rooney.
Goals: Saha 33, van Nistelrooy 79.
Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).