Just two promotions spots were up for grabs as the Premier League was due to reduce in size and the chances of promotion looked remote as Lee Nogan and Adrian Williams put the Royals into a commanding lead just 12 minutes in.
It looked to be game over when Keith Branagan brought down Nogan in the 34th minute for a penalty – but it proved to be a pivotal moment as he saved Stuart Lovell’s spot kick and turned the momentum in Wanderers’ favour.
It still took until the 75th minute for Bruce Rioch’s side to get on the scoreboard through Owen Coyle’s fine header.
Fabian de Freitas then forced the game into extra time – paying back a portion of his club record £400,000 fee.
Extra time belonged to Wanderers. Mixu Paatelainen put his side into the lead before De Freitas put the Whites fans into dreamland. Jimmy Quinn’s late consolation failed to spoil the party and Bolton were back in the big time.