Ola John pushes Bolton closer to the trap door
Substitute Ola John sank 10-man Bolton closer to League One with a stunning 90th-minute winner to earn Reading a deserved 1-0 Skybet Championship victory at the Macron Stadium.
Wanderers, now potentially one game from the drop, played for more than an hour one man short after Rob Holding's controversial dismissal.
Misfiring Matej Vydra saw his resulting penalty saved by Ben Amos while Reading twice hit the woodwork in a one-sided second half.
It looked like the backs-to-the wall heroics might earn caretaker boss Jimmy Phillips his first point since replacing Neil Lennon.
But on-loan Benfica winger John, a 60th-minute replacement for Lucas Piazon, cracked in a 35-yard match-winner to break Bolton hearts as so often late on in this season of doom.
Wanderers' plight was under lined by Phillips' second team selection since stepping into the breach.
Five of the starting line-up were home grown Academy including 20-year-old defender Niall Maher.
And Maher certainly looked nervous early on as Jordan Obita received the freedom of the Macron Stadium right flank.
But after a sterile opening 20 minutes, the game came to life in controversial fashion.
Holding, whose future is currently under discussion was adjudged the last man as brought down Vydra.
Referee Geoff Eltringham initially looked as though he was going to book Vydra. Instead, he pointed to the spot and then further bewildered the home crowd by brandishing a red card.
Ben Amos, back in goal after a six game injury absence, celebrated his comeback with a save from Vydra's admittedly poor spot kick.
Having awoken from their slumber home fans were suitably incensed again when Yann Kermogant challenged Stephen Dobbie in the area.
Dobbie stayed down for several minutes before being forced off with a facial injury. Ex Charlton man Kermorgant was fortune to only receive a yellow card for the clash that left Dobbie unable to continue.
Briefly, Wanderers were down to nine men but still Reading could not breakthrough.
Most of the chances fell to Vydra who headed over when it seemed easier to score while ex-Manchester United keeper Amos saved with his legs as the Czech Republic star burst through Wanderers' static middle.
Chris Gunter was also yellow carded for dissent, complaining he had not won a free kick for Dean Moxey's challenge. And for the rest of the game the full-back was roundly jeered for appearing to feign injury under the left back's tackle.
Somehow Bolton reached half-time with goal intact and continued to survive. Zach Clough managed a rare shot in retaliation at former Trotters favourite, Ali Al Habsi.
But the one-way traffic continued for the rest of the afternoon as Reading, in their fetching African Violet kit, tried time and again to breakdown the 10 men.
Amos made a fine stop from Danny Williams while Stephen Quinn smashed a left foot drive against a foot of the post.
Dutchman John also missed a sitter with three team mates looking to tap in the ball. But he atoned in the nick of the time with a stunning long range drive to help Reading to a first win in six matches.