By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at the Reebok Stadium
Dave Kitson scored Stoke's first away goal of the season
Matt Taylor's late penalty rescued a point for Bolton just as Stoke City looked on the brink of maintaining their impressive start to the season with victory at the Reebok.
Dave Kitson's composed finish eight minutes after the interval appeared to have given Stoke their first away win in the league this season.
But Bolton were handed a lifeline - and their first home point of the season - with only a minute left when a reckless challenge from Danny Collins on Sam Ricketts saw referee Mark Clattenburg point to the spot.
Taylor calmly slotted away the penalty to give Bolton a draw and ease the pressure on manager Gary Megson, who felt the full force of the frustration of the home fans at half-time in an encounter that was high on endeavour but low on quality.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis will be bitterly disappointed at seeing victory squandered after Kitson continued his rehabilitation following an undistinguished first season in The Potteries which saw him loaned back to former club Reading.
He has returned to Stoke determined to make his mark on the Premier League, and the manner in which he took his goal was a rare moment of class in a drab affair.
For Bolton, Taylor's penalty gave them great relief after their earlier efforts to mount a comeback were thwarted when Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen saved brilliantly from new signing Ivan Klasnic, on as a substitute, and defender Zat Knight blazed wildly over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
Even the equaliser was not enough to convince many Bolton fans, who still vented their anger at the final whistle despite seeing their side snatch a draw.
In a first half that made a nonsense of its billing as entertainment, Stoke at least gathered early momentum before being dragged down to mediocrity alongside Bolton.
Matthew Etherington had a shot blocked after good work by Ricardo Fuller, who was the booked by referee Clattenburg for diving as he went to ground under a challenge from Gavin McCann.
Bolton's response was a Gary Cahill header that flew off target and a long-range free-kick from Taylor that was collected with ease by Sorensen.
Both keepers had effectively been unemployed until Whelan tested Jussi Jaaskelainen with another free-kick that produced a fine diving save from the Bolton veteran.
The lack of action was producing a furious response from Bolton's fans, who broke out into several rounds of jeering towards the end of the first half - and their mood was not improved when striker Kevin Davies, who was giving a typically combative performance, was also shown a yellow card for diving.
Late goal cost us again - Pulis
Megson acted decisively during the interval and sent on Ricardo Gardner for Fabrice Muamba and gave new signing Klasnic his home debut in place of Gretar Steinsson.
It almost brought immediate rewards when Gardner's long ball released Taylor, but his finish was narrowly wide. And Stoke then made the most of the reprieve to sweep to the other end of the field and take the lead after 53 minutes.
Fuller's header allowed Kitson to turn Ricketts before sliding a precise finish low into the corner beyond Jaaskelainen.
Bolton twice had opportunities to equalise in the space of seconds after 64 minutes, first when Sorensen made a fine one-handed save from Klasnic and then when Knight blazed over from only eight yards after Stoke failed to clear the resulting corner.
Stoke were protecting their advantage without too many alarms until the late rush of blood from Collins gave Bolton a point their performance barely deserved.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis: "That's two weeks running we've conceded goals that have cost points.
"We played really well and desperately disappointed not to come out with three points.
"They brought Ricardo Gardner on and he caused a few problems, he kept tucking inside and getting into pockets. But we put Danny Pugh on, that sorted that out and if anything, I thought we could have got another one."
Megson regrets slow Bolton start
Bolton manager Gary Megson on Dave Kitson's opening goal for Stoke:
"You will not see a worse goal to concede at any level, never mind professional football.
"It was a lack of determination and that cannot happen. People have got to do a lot more to score against you.
"We have dealt with corners, every throw-in from Rory Delap, but gave away a terrible goal.
"We had two of three good opportunities. The penalty was nailed on and I thought it was the least we deserved the way we played in the second half."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.