Reading earned their fourth successive win in the Premiership as Kevin Doyle's goal was enough to see off Bolton.
In-form striker Doyle (far right) celebrates his winner against Bolton
Doyle struck in the first half, rising high at the back post to head into the far corner after lovely wing play down the right from John Oster.
Reading were good value and Oster blazed over before Leroy Lita forced a fine late save from Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Kevin Nolan dragged a shot off target and Abdoulaye Faye headed wide from two yards as Bolton slipped to defeat.
It was exactly what Reading deserved for a display full of spirit and determination, just the qualities needed to beat a physical Bolton side.
The Royals quickly showed their visitors how well they have adapted to life in the Premiership as James Harper latched on to a Doyle knock-back and flashed a shot wide from 25 yards.
Reading were on top for much of the early stages, but Bolton gave them little space to work in and began to frustrate their opponents by cutting off the supply to Doyle and Seol Ki-Hyeon.
It was very much classic Bolton: stop the opposition playing and barrage them with long throw-ins and high balls pumped up to Kevin Davies, with Nolan and Gary Speed looking to pick up the second ball.
But Reading were not deterred and kept playing their normal passing game, probing and pushing for an opening.
Not long after the half-hour mark, they were rewarded for their perseverance and patience.
Oster skipped inside Stelios and clipped a lovely ball to the far post where Doyle rose high to nod cleverly back across goal and into the corner.
Bolton were out well before Reading for the start of the second half, clearly with some stern words from boss Sam Allardyce ringing in their ears after a passionless first 45 minutes.
But they failed to significantly improve and should have been 2-0 down almost immediately, Oster blazing hopelessly over from six yards after fine work from Stephen Hunt down the left.
Nolan - with his hand in plaster due to a dislocated finger - was trying to haul Bolton back into it and he dragged wide from eight yards, before being booked for a clumsy tackle on the impressive Steve Sidwell.
Allardyce had seen enough and on the hour he hauled off Speed - on his 499th Premiership appearance - and Diouf and brought on Ricardo Vaz Te and Ivan Campo.
Nolan flashed a header straight at Marcus Hahnemann, but even the expected aerial bombardment from Bolton failed to materialise and it was Reading who looked more likely to get a second.
Sidwell found himself in space 20 yards out only to lash over the crossbar, before substitute Lita cut in from the left and saw his low drive well-saved by Jaaskelainen.
Reading, in their first season in top-flight football, are sixth, outside a Champions League berth by virtue of only goal difference.
Reading manager Steve Coppell on their fourth league win in-a-row:
"It's December and you win nothing now. If you come back in May and we're sixth we'll have a party!
"It's a week-by-week challenge in the Premiership and one good result can be followed by a bad one, as we've had.
"We played well against Bolton and I thought we deserved to win. We were positive and tried to be creative."
Bolton boss Sam Allardyce:
"We got what we deserved. Reading played at their best with the confidence they have gained so far and we were hungover from the Chelsea game.
"We couldn't live with Reading in the first half because of the amount of effort we put in against Chelsea.
"Their goal was good, but as gallant and brave as we were in the second half, it was far too late for us."
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster (Gunnarsson 87), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt, Doyle, Ki-Hyeon (Lita 76).
Subs Not Used: Federici, Bikey, Long.
Goals: Doyle 33.
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Faye, Meite, Ben Haim (Pedersen 85), Davies, Nolan, Giannakopoulos, Speed (Campo 60), Diouf (Vaz Te 60), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Tal.
Booked: Nolan, Ben Haim, Jaaskelainen.
Ref: A Wiley (Staffordshire).