Keith Hill’s side crashed to their 11th away defeat of the campaign with a performance that had pluck but none of the quality they had shown at Coventry a few days earlier.
Fejiri Okenabirhie and Niall Ennis scored the goals but Bolton will feel they only have themselves to blame once again both for the way they were conceded, and the way they failed to capitalise on Doncaster’s invitation back into the game.
Joe Dodoo halved the deficit with a tap in after some comical defending from the home team – but when calm heads and composure were needed to take advantage in the final half an hour, it was noticeably absent.
It is hard to beat Wanderers over the head, given where this side has come from, but watching them on the road has become a real test of faith for the 500-plus who turned up on an icy night in South Yorkshire.
The absence of in-form winger Dennis Politic stuck out like a sore thumb prior to kick off, as did the six substitutes left on the bench. At time of writing his absence had not been explained – but all signs pointed to it having happened late in the day.
With Ronan Darcy also unavailable because of a foot injury it meant none of the ‘Junior Whites’ team which started the season for Wanderers were in the starting line-up, quite ironic considering the opponents.
Jack Hobbs was the other new name on the team-sheet, replacing Toto Nsiala, in what was the centre-half’s first start since October 7. It proved a difficult night, as evidenced by his departure midway through the second half through injury.
Wanderers were their own worst enemy at Coventry on Saturday, defensive lapses to blame for both goals at either end of the game. They were equally sloppy at either end of a first half and could hardly complain at going in a goal down.
Almost straight from kick-off a poor clearance by Kean Bryan put his side under pressure and Hobbs had to make an important block from James Coppinger’s shot.
Remi Matthews then had to be at his best to deny Donny captain Ben Whiteman, who had picked up a half-cleared corner on the edge of the penalty box and blasted a shot through a forest of legs.
Bolton’s fans were creating their own entertainment, teasing the home club mercilessly over the controversial postponed game back in August. By the end of the half, however, the joy had largely disappeared.
Dodoo had a chance to snatch the opener, beating Reece James to get a glimpse of Seny Dieng’s goal, but he opted to pass, giving the home side a chance to clear.
Most of the traffic was directed down Wanderers’ left, where the dangerous Kieran Sadlier and overlapping Brad Halliday supplied a steady stream of crosses. Okenabirhie wasted one header close in but would be more accurate with his second chance of the night.
With five minutes left in the half, James raided virtually unchecked to the edge of the Bolton box and prodded a pass through to the former Arsenal trainee, who passed the ball past Matthews and into the net.
Unfortunately moments later James exited the pitch on a stretcher, floored by his own touchline challenge on Josh Emmanuel.
Doncaster wasted no time making the game safe in the second half – and again some serious questions can be asked of the Bolton defending.
The ball was played in to Coppinger on the edge of the box and he was given the space to turn, chip a cross into the far post of Niall Ennis, who thundered a header home after sneaking in behind Emmanuel.
It was deja vu for the Whites, who conceded an identical goal at St Andrew’s at the weekend. Here, it looked like it could be the signal for a landslide. When Okenabirhie had an angled shot blocked well by Matthews, a third looked likely.
But then suddenly, Wanderers were handed a completely unexpected lifeline. Dieng’s throw was intercepted by Luke Murphy and when Halliday undercooked his back-pass, the keeper’s clearance bounced off the advancing midfielder and straight into the path of Dodoo, who stroked the ball into the net.
For some unknown reason the home side decided to stop playing, surrendering possession with alarming regularity and transforming what had been a relatively celebratory atmosphere into a tense and nervous one.
Hobbs had ran his race, wincing in pain as he walked off to the touchline. Jacob Mellis came on in midfield and Jason Lowe dropped into the back four.
Doncaster continued to toil but the game was devoid of quality and had become a frantically open affair.
Had Wanderers managed to haul themselves level, all their previous sins would have been forgiven.
They could have done just that when they were gifted the ball once again in the Doncaster half, this time Daryl Murphy was allowed to gallop in on goal. But with players either side of him the Irishman went for goal and his effort was blocked.
Murphy had another decent chance after Chris O’Grady’s near-post flick landed at his feet from Fleming’s corner.
Hill was forced into another late switch as Ryan Delaney came on for Kean Bryan, who went down injured, but the game fizzled out without any further incident and Wanderers were left contemplating yet another defeat on the journey home.