Goals from Jem Karacan, David Wheater and Adam le Fondre, three players with Premier League experience, ensured that the Lancashire club claimed the second automatic place in League One behind the champions Sheffield United.
It rounded off an emphatic response from a team who finished bottom of the Championship 12 months ago, a whopping 19 points from safety, and handed an immediate promotion to Phil Parkinson, who quit the divisional rivals Bradford last summer to take over at a club beset by financial troubles.
Players and staff have been paid late on more than one occasion this season, and Bolton received a winding-up petition over an unpaid loan as recently as last week.
On the field, however, Parkinson has brought about stability, and Bolton knew a draw would effectively be good enough to secure second place, given that allied to their two-point buffer off Fleetwood at kick-off was an eight-goal advantage on goal difference.
In the build-up Parkinson spoke of his team taking care of their own destiny and he reiterated that sentiment in his programme notes.
They had laboured somewhat over the past month, claiming just eight points from six matches, but crucially three of those came last weekend in victory against Port Vale, who were relegated after a goalless draw against Fleetwood.
Equally crucially, he stuck with Karacan in an unchanged XI despite Darren Pratley returning to fitness following a hamstring injury. That decision paid off with an early goal to settle any lingering nerves.
The strikers Le Fondre and Gary Madine both sniffed around for half-chances in the opening 20 minutes – the Peterbrough goalkeeper Luke McGee haring out to collect Madine’s deflected shot as Le Fondre lurked, and then gathering a nudge towards goal by Madine from a corner – before a delivery into the area of real quality created the opening goal.
Initially blocked in a raid down the right, Filipe Morais relayed the ball back to the full-back Dorian Dervite and a sumptuous cross was dispatched into the corner of the net by Karacan’s precision volley.
A healthily populated Macron Stadium – the 22,590 attendance was the second-biggest of the season, bettered only by the Chesterfield fixture when it was a fiver a ticket – erupted.
Having given themselves early wriggle room, Bolton lived on the edge at times throughout the remainder of the first half, as mid-table Peterborough threatened an equaliser. Twice in quick succession, Tom Nichols found himself in a position to shoot inside the home penalty area only for Wheater to spectacularly dispossess him in the process via a sliding challenge and the Bolton defender to inadvertently block an instinctive toe-poke from six yards soon afterwards.
Bolton went close to making it an even more comfortable half-time position a minute before the interval when Josh Vela skirted to the byline and centred for Madine, whose first-time shot from 12 yards was kicked away by a sprawling McGee.
They did double their advantage eight minutes after the restart, though, as the centre-back Wheater’s prolific season saw him become the club’s joint top scorer: Le Fondre nodded a loose ball back across the six-yard box and Wheater headed in at the far post.
From that point there was an inevitability about the final result and another of the defenders Mark Beevers attempted to put a further gloss on it with a left-foot drive 20 minutes from time that McGee did well to beat out.
In the end the three-goal margin was secured by a likelier source as Vela teased a through ball into the path of Le Fondre whose drive arrowed into the roof of the net from the edge of the area.
A couple of hundred Bolton fans marred the eventual celebrations with a premature pitch invasion in stoppage time but order was soon restored before the real celebrations began.
Meanwhile, Millwall’s late goal in a 4-3 win against Bristol Rovers sealed the final play-off place ahead of Southend.
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