Fulham heaped more misery on bottom-of-the-table Bolton as goals by Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz handed the visitors their fifth loss on the trot.
Dempsey steered a fine header past Jussi Jaaskelainen just after the half-hour from Ruiz's cross.
The American then turned provider two minutes later when he took advantage of a mix-up to set Ruiz free to chip in.
Bolton's best chances fell to Fabrice Muamba and Mark Davies but they could not beat David Stockdale.
Owen Coyle's side had opportunities to hit back after they went behind, but they looked devoid of confidence and lacking in leadership as they fell to their seventh defeat in eight games.
We're in a dogfight - Coyle
And Bolton will go into their crucial game against fellow strugglers Blackburn on Tuesday five points adrift of safety.
For Fulham the result was a welcome fillip after they crashed out of Europe in midweek to end a Europa League run which started in June.
They were barely tested by Coyle's men but with games to come against Manchester United and Chelsea, manager Martin Jol will appreciate the three points before a busy Christmas period.
Once Nigel Reo-Coker fired wide early on, the first half was regularly punctuated by efforts on the Bolton goal with Andy Johnson off target and Brede Hangeland heading wide from a corner.
John Arne Riise drew a decent save from Jaaskelainen as the hosts brushed off the loss of Bobby Zamora, who failed a fitness test on a knee problem before the game, and began to build momentum.
BOLTON'S POOR DEFENCE
Bolton have now conceded 11 goals from crosses, still the worst record in the Premier League this season
Coming into the match Bolton had the worst record in the Premier League for conceding from crosses so it was no surprise that they did so again on 32 minutes, although Dempsey's header was a cracker.
Moussa Dembele was given room to drive at the Bolton defence and when he found Ruiz down the right side, the Costa Rican crossed for the American to score his eighth of the season from 12 yards.
Dempsey then returned to the favour just over a minute later when he set Ruiz free down the centre of the pitch and the Central American cheekily looped the ball over the Bolton keeper.
Jol applauds his forwards
The goals dealt a blow to the visitors, who remain as the league's worst defensive side, and their reason for their position was highlighted in the second goal when both Gary Cahill and Zat Knight were drawn to the ball in the centre of the pitch.
Bolton did recover somewhat before the break and Mark Davies forced a save from recalled Fulham keeper Stockdale, but visiting manager Coyle was left ruing another poor first half-performance and sent on Chris Eagles and Gretar Steinsson for the second period, with David Ngog replacing Kevin Davies 10 minutes after half-time.
Ngog and Eagles both went close for the visitors, but for all Coyle's positivity in the build-up to the game, Bolton were often outnumbered in midfield, where Reo-Coker and Muamba sometimes struggled.
That the hosts did not add to their lead was down to some smart defending by Cahill, but while he helped stem the flow, there were few signs that Wanderers could claw their way back into the match.
Perhaps what will worry Coyle most as he heads to Ewood Park for the vital game against Blackburn is that his team look like they have lost their appetite for the fight.
Gary Cahill takes a shot. David Stockdale makes a save.
The ball is sent over by Gretar Rafn Steinsson.
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Chris Baird by Mark Davies. Direct free kick taken by Chris Baird.
John Arne Riise crosses the ball.
Corner taken short by Danny Murphy.
Dickson Etuhu gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on David Ngog. The free kick is swung in right-footed by Chris Eagles, Brede Hangeland manages to make a clearance.
Gretar Rafn Steinsson sends in a cross, clearance by Philippe Senderos.
Effort from inside the six-yard box by Moussa Dembele goes wide left of the target.
Chris Eagles takes a shot. Save made by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the free kick.
Booking Danny Murphy is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Danny Murphy on Nigel Reo-Coker.
Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Jussi Jaaskelainen makes a save.
Fabrice Muamba takes a shot. Save by David Stockdale.
Bryan Ruiz produces a left-footed shot from outside the penalty area and misses left.
Moussa Dembele delivers the ball, clearance by Marcos Alonso.
Ivan Klasnic is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Chris Baird.
Moussa Dembele takes a shot. Blocked by Gary Cahill. Clint Dempsey fouled by Nigel Reo-Coker, the ref awards a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Bryan Ruiz from the free kick.
The referee penalises David Ngog for handball. Direct free kick taken by Danny Murphy.
Moussa Dembele is penalised for a handball. Free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Blocked by Zat Knight.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Mark Davies on Bryan Ruiz. Danny Murphy restarts play with the free kick.
Chris Eagles has an effort at goal from outside the box which goes wide left of the goal.
Andrew Johnson crosses the ball, Effort on goal by Clint Dempsey from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
The ball is swung over by Andrew Johnson, Close range shot by Clint Dempsey misses to the left of the goal.
The ball is sent over by Chris Eagles, save made by David Stockdale.
Danny Murphy crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance made by Zat Knight.
Booking Caution for Gretar Rafn Steinsson.
Gretar Rafn Steinsson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Andrew Johnson.
The referee blows for offside against Andrew Johnson. Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the free kick.
The referee blows for offside. Indirect free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Foul by Marcos Alonso on Clint Dempsey, free kick awarded. Danny Murphy delivers the ball from the free kick right-footed from left wing, clearance by David Ngog.
Dickson Etuhu challenges Fabrice Muamba unfairly and gives away a free kick. Chris Eagles crosses the ball in from the free kick, Danny Murphy manages to make a clearance.
Shot by Fabrice Muamba from outside the area goes high over the crossbar.
Fabrice Muamba takes a shot. Save by David Stockdale.
David Stockdale takes the free kick.
Substitution David Ngog on for Kevin Davies.
Ivan Klasnic is flagged offside by the assistant referee.
Kevin Davies is flagged offside by the assistant referee. David Stockdale restarts play with the free kick.
Corner from the right by-line taken by Danny Murphy, clearance by Gary Cahill.
Andrew Johnson is caught offside. Indirect free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Header by Ivan Klasnic from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
The second half has started.
Substitution Chris Eagles joins the action as a substitute, replacing Darren Pratley.
Substitution Gretar Rafn Steinsson on for Dedryck Boyata.
45:00 +2:08 Half time
Half Time The referee blows for half time.
The ball is sent over by Moussa Dembele, Marcos Alonso makes a clearance.
Inswinging corner taken by Bryan Ruiz from the right by-line played to the near post, Gary Cahill manages to make a clearance.
Andrew Johnson produces a cross.
Direct free kick taken by John Arne Riise.
Booking Fabrice Muamba is given a yellow card.
Andrew Johnson fouled by Fabrice Muamba, the ref awards a free kick.
The ball is swung over by Darren Pratley, Philippe Senderos manages to make a clearance.
Foul by John Arne Riise on Darren Pratley, free kick awarded. Dedryck Boyata takes the free kick.
Mark Davies takes a shot. Save by David Stockdale.
Ivan Klasnic challenges Brede Hangeland unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by John Arne Riise.
Ivan Klasnic takes a shot. Dickson Etuhu gets a block in. Corner taken right-footed by Mark Davies, Headed effort from inside the penalty area by Kevin Davies misses to the right of the target.
Andrew Johnson crosses the ball, Gary Cahill makes a clearance.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Bryan Ruiz on Fabrice Muamba. Free kick taken by Marcos Alonso.
Clint Dempsey provided the assist for the goal.
33:03 Goal scored
Goal! - Bryan Ruiz - Fulham 2 - 0 Bolton Bryan Ruiz grabs a goal from inside the penalty area low into the middle of the goal. Fulham 2-0 Bolton.
The assist for the goal came from Bryan Ruiz.
31:57 Goal scored
Goal! - Clint Dempsey - Fulham 1 - 0 Bolton Clint Dempsey finds the back of the net with a headed goal from inside the penalty area. Fulham 1-0 Bolton.
Bryan Ruiz produces a cross,
The offside flag is raised against Bryan Ruiz. Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the indirect free kick.
Handball by Ivan Klasnic. Free kick taken by Danny Murphy.
Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Mark Davies, Effort by Marcos Alonso from a long way out goes over the crossbar.
Corner taken by Mark Davies from the right by-line played to the near post.
Mark Davies decides to take the corner short.
The referee blows for offside. Jussi Jaaskelainen restarts play with the free kick.
Danny Murphy takes a outswinging corner. Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Danny Murphy.
Booking Nigel Reo-Coker goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.
Clint Dempsey fouled by Mark Davies, the ref awards a free kick. Danny Murphy takes the free kick. John Arne Riise takes a shot. Fabrice Muamba gets a block in.
Darren Pratley produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
Inswinging corner taken by Danny Murphy from the left by-line, Dickson Etuhu takes a shot. Blocked by Marcos Alonso. Inswinging corner taken by Danny Murphy, Close range header by Brede Hangeland misses to the right of the target.
Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Blocked by Gary Cahill.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Kevin Davies on Brede Hangeland. Philippe Senderos takes the free kick.
Ivan Klasnic has an effort at goal from outside the box missing to the wide left of the goal.
Free kick awarded for a foul by Nigel Reo-Coker on Danny Murphy. Philippe Senderos takes the direct free kick.
Andrew Johnson is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the free kick.
Danny Murphy takes a shot. Jussi Jaaskelainen makes a save. Danny Murphy takes a short corner.
The ball is sent over by John Arne Riise, clearance by Zat Knight.
Andrew Johnson produces a left-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
The assistant referee flags for offside against Andrew Johnson. Indirect free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Nigel Reo-Coker produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.
Foul by Mark Davies on Moussa Dembele, free kick awarded. Philippe Senderos takes the direct free kick.
Unfair challenge on Darren Pratley by John Arne Riise results in a free kick. Free kick crossed right-footed by Zat Knight from left channel, clearance by Brede Hangeland.
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