Bolton almost produced an incredible comeback at Stamford Bridge but fell just short of turning around a four-goal deficit.
Michael Ballack scored his first Premier League goal of the season to put Chelsea ahead shortly before half-time after a cut-back from Salomon Kalou.
Didier Drogba added a second at the start of the second-half with a powerful strike from close range. Frank Lampard hit the third from the penalty spot after Gretar Steinsson was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area.
Drogba thought he had killed the game off when he bundled in his second and Chelsea's fourth from a Florent Malouda corner.
Andy O'Brien then slotted home what seemed to be a consolation past a stranded Petr Cech as the hosts failed to clear. But when substitute Chris Basham poked in a Kevin Davies flick-on Chelsea became nervous.
Matthew Taylor dragged Bolton to within a goal after another flick-on from Davies but the away side could not find the final goal that would have completed a magical comeback.
The home side were almost caught out in the second minute when a scorching free-kick from Taylor was palmed away by goalkeeper Cech as it arrowed towards the top corner.
Chelsea's response was a 20-yard drive by Drogba that Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen did well to keep out.
Bolton went close again in the 21st minute when Ballack lost possession to Gardner and the Bolton midfielder set off on a mazy run but was forced to lay the ball off to Davies on the and his cross was almost put in by Taylor.
Lampard almost made Bolton pay when his 30-yard free-kick dipped in-front of Jaaskelainen, who made a brilliant save.
Chelsea were not afraid to shoot from range and John Obi Mikel, back in the side in place of Michael Essien, drew another fine save from Jaaskelainen.
The home side's pressure finally paid-off in the 40th minute. Ballack began the move by setting Kalou free on the right and the Ivorian's low cross back into the penalty area was fired into the roof of the net by the German midfielder.
Kalou broke free again moments later but this time his low cross was just inches behind the lurking Drogba.
Chelsea went two goals in front in the 48th minute when they punished Bolton for some poor defending. JLloyd Samuel brought down Kalou on the right-hand edge of the penalty area and when the free-kick was played into the box Drogba's left-foot sent the ball past Jaaskelainen.
In the 59th minute Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Lampard's attempted pass ricocheted off Steinsson's arm and the England midfielder sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.
Bolton's afternoon got worse in the 63rd minute when a corner from Malouda was headed down by Branislav Ivanovic and Drogba reacted quickest to guide the ball into the net for Chelsea's fourth.
The goal was the signal for Guus Hiddink to rest some of his players ahead of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday.
Deco and Nicolas Anelka were introduced into the action in the 65th minute for Lampard and Drogba respectively. The decision almost cost Chelsea dear.
A rejuvenated Bolton surged forward and O'Brien took advantage of a fumble by Cech to score in the 69th minute.
Bolton added a second in the 74th minute when Basham got on the end of a Davies header to guide the ball home.
Incredibly, Bolton made it 4-3 four only minutes later when Taylor headed home another flick-on by Davies.
Chelsea squandered a chance to finish Bolton off for the second time when Malouda forced Jaaskelainen to produce a great save.
There was drama deep into injury-time as Deco cleared off the line from Gary Cahill with virtually the last kick of the game to deny Bolton one of the most sensational comebacks in Premier League history.
1st Half Goals
Shots on Target
Shots off Target