A defeat in this fixture last season did much to scupper Arsenal's challenge for the Premiership title. It is far too early to suggest this afternoon's reverse will do likewise this term. But it hardly helps.
Arsène Wenger's side were below par in the first half. They were duly punished by goals from Abdoulaye Faye and Stelios.
Arsenal rallied after the restart and had Jussi Jaaskelainen not pulled off a breathtaking double save just before the hour, the final result might have been different. But, in the end, Bolton deserved their win.
It was Arsenal's first defeat in 10 games and their fourth of the Premiership campaign. They slip to fifth in the table.
Arsène Wenger made two changes from the side that had beaten Blackburn a week ago. Freddie Ljungberg and Robin van Persie came in, Jose Antonio Reyes and Dennis Bergkamp dropped to the bench.
This has always been a tough fixture for Arsenal. However the victory achieved by Sam Allardyce's side at the Reebok Stadium last term was their only success in 12 games against the Gunners.
Still, as normal, Jens Lehmann's goal was under pressure straight from the start this afternoon. However neither side had created much before Faye put the home side ahead in the 20th minute. Tal Ben Haim's free kick was flicked back into the area by Stelios and Faye climbed high at the far post to power home a header.
The goal opened the floodgates for Bolton. Faye's quick free-kick caught the Arsenal defence napping and Lehmann made a sharp save from a downward header by Davies.
On the half hour, Davies robbed Henry on the byline and Lehmann rushed out to dispossess El-Hadji Douif with a sliding tackling. Fortunately the assistant referee had flagged for offside anyway.
That should have been a lesson to Arsenal - don't dawdle on the ball when Davies is around. They did not heed the message. Four minutes later, Gilberto was muscled out by the big striker near the corner flag. With Lehmann out of position, all Davies had to do was fire in a low cross for the onrushing Stelios to smash home from close range.
Arsenal responded. Henry hoisted a languid shot against the post from long-range while Van Persie thought he had scored only for referee Howard Webb to call play back for a foul in the build up.
However Bolton had equally inviting chances to extend their lead still further. Lehmann saved bravely from Faye at the near post and athletically from Nolan's piledriver.
Arsenal had much more purpose at the start of the second half. Only a magnificent double save from Jaaskelainen stopped the visitors from regaining a foothold in the game in the 55th minute.
First the Finn got the faintest touch onto Henry's long-range shot and deflected it onto the inside of the post. Then he recovered immediately to somehow block Pires' follow up.
But the visitors could not sustain the pressure and, slowly but surely, Bolton clawed their way back to parity of possession. In the 65th minute, Joey O'Brien had chance blocked at the near post and Faye 'scored' in the melee that followed. It was ruled out for a foul on Lehmann.
Arsenal still had pressure but could not do much with it. Their most notable chances in the latter stages came when Faye cleared Henry's low cross from inside his own six-yard box then Toure hacked a first-time shot wide.
Four minutes from time substitute Ricardo Vaz Te darted through however Lehmann saved Arsenal again. The big German thrust out his left hand to block the shot and Toure booted the ball clear.
Lehmann had been on top form all afternoon but he could do little to prevent this defeat.
- Lauren Yellow Card
- Cygan Yellow Card
- Fabregas 69
- van Persie 69
- Reyes 69
- Bergkamp 69
- Ben Haim
- Giannakopoulos 81 Goal!
- Faye 86 Goal! Yellow Card
- Jaidi 86
- Vaz Te 81