Sunderland were heading out of the FA Cup after going 2-0 down at the Reebok Stadium, with a howler from Carlos Cuellar gifting Bolton the lead as Chung-Yong Lee took full advantage before Marvin Sordell doubled the Trotters’ lead early in the second half.
But goals from sub Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner earned the Wearsiders a draw and took the tie to a replay at the Stadium of Light.
Martin O'Neill: “We certainly contributed greatly to our potential downfall with the first goal. We were really sloppy in the first half.
“We had 5,000 people who paid their hard-earned money to come here and support us again, and they deserved better than we served up in the first half.
"But a proper FA Cup third-round match finally came to the boil in the last 35 minutes. Roared on by the crowd, I thought we did brilliantly to fight back.
“Connor did great, and I was delighted for him.
“He was coming on anyway, even if we had to play three at the back to get him on.
“To get the goal will be a big confidence booster for him.
“I think that’s been the first time he has been on the field with Steven Fletcher and, while it is hard to make a judgement on 35 minutes, it looks like they can play together.”