It took his tally for the season to 19, a figure only Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has bettered, and left Bruce trumpeting his claims once again.
The manager said: "I have had a bad enough time trying to pick a team for the last three months, so I am not going to tell Fabio Capello how to do it because he has been there, worn the T-shirt and done it.
"All I can say is he must be in his thoughts, he has to be because of his goalscoring exploits.
"For somebody at the very highest level to have the same amount of goals as [Didier] Drogba is quite staggering. Fair play to the kid, I am delighted for him.
"No disrespect to us, but to be at a team in the bottom half of the table and get what he has got, it's fantastic. It is unbelievable with 10 games to go.
"He is a natural goalscorer, so he still must be in with a shout because you have got [Wayne] Rooney and you have got [Jermain] Defoe. Those two come to mind, and there are not too many after that, natural goalscorers.
"He has got to be knocking on the door, has to be."
It was Bent who stole the headlines for Sunderland on a night when the trials and tribulations of a three-and-a-half-month wait for a league win were soon forgotten.
From the moment Fraizer Campbell put the Wearsiders ahead with just 44 seconds gone, the tension lifted at the Stadium of Light, although a crowd of 36,087 had to wait until the second half for the fireworks.
Bent made it 2-0 with a fine finish from Lee Cattermole's 64th-minute pass and 10 minutes later after Sam Ricketts had been sent off for barging him to the ground - the defender's second bookable offence - he converted from the penalty spot to take his season's tally to 18.
His 19th arrived with two minutes of the game remaining when he slotted home from Campbell's pull-back to complete a fine evening's work.
There were plenty of other positives for Bruce too, in particular the form of Steed Malbranque, who turned in an excellent individual display on the left side of midfield following his return to the team after being punished for breaching the club's disciplinary code.
The win lifted Sunderland into 13th place and created a six-point gap to the drop zone, making Bruce's planned meeting with Short tomorrow a little more routine than it might have been.
He said: "It's funny, I went for a walk and a bit of fresh air. I was just walking around looking at the pitch and I bumped into him [Short]. It wasn't pre-planned.
"It's just relief that we have got a victory. I am pleased for everybody concerned with the club and delighted that we have got one."
Bolton boss Owen Coyle was left to reflect on a series of key decisions he felt went against his side, but admitted Sunderland's blistering start had proved decisive.
He said: "We came in good form and looking to win a game, and when you concede a goal within 44 seconds, then it gives you a bit to do to get back into the game.
"Having said that, I thought the first half was even - Sunderland were dangerous on the counter-attack if we gave away cheap possession, but at the start of the second half, we were the team in the ascendancy.
"We maybe could have worked Craig Gordon a little bit harder given the possession in the dangerous areas we were in, and ultimately, we paid a heavy price."
Barclays Prem Top Goalscorer 09/10: Bent, D. 16/1