Newcastle scored twice in two second-half minutes to condemn Bolton to their eighth home defeat of the season.
Wanderers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen saved Ryan Taylor's free-kick, while Newcastle's Tim Krul kept out Martin Petrov's effort in a dull first half.
But Hatem Ben Arfa swept in Taylor's cross from 12 yards before Demba Ba bundled in Gabriel Obertan's cross in quick succession to snatch the victory.
Martin Petrov fired wide for Bolton, who remain second-bottom of the table.
Newcastle stay seventh in the Premier League after they ended a run of six games without a win with what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
A draw had looked the most likely result after a first half that lacked any chances of note bar a terrific free-kick by each side that the goalkeepers did well to push to safety.
The first was curled with pace round Bolton's defensive wall from 25 yards by Taylor, but Jaaskelainen's strong left hand kept the ball out.
And five minutes before the break Bolton's Petrov stung the palms of Newcastle keeper Tim Krul with a fiercely hit 20-yard effort.
In between, poor passing, mis-timed tackling and an inability to retain possession spoiled the game.
However, Leon Best should have done better in the closing stages of the half with a free header from six yards, but the United striker glanced his effort wide.
As the scores stood at half-time, Bolton, who have won only one of their nine home games this season, were bottom of the table as Blackburn were leading 1-0 at Liverpool.
Maybe the news filtered through to the players because they started the second half with a little more urgency but all too often the final pass went astray.
- Bolton have the worst defensive record in the Premier League. They have conceded 41 goals in 18 games
Ivan Klasnic tried to take the attack to Newcastle on his own, showing good skill and quick feet to work an opening in the penalty area but he fell over his own feet as he prepared to shoot.
The Croatian, who was booked in the first half, glanced nervously over his shoulder as referee Peter Walton awarded a free-kick for a dive but common sense prevailed and he was not shown a second yellow.
The game turned on its head midway through the second period when Chris Eagles gave the ball away and Taylor's left-wing centre found an unmarked Ben Arfa who beat Jaaskelainen with a low first-time effort from 12 yards.
It was the first goal scored by a United player other than Ba in five games, but the Senegal striker was soon on the scoresheet with his 14th goal of the season.
Bolton full-back Paul Robinson was easily dispossessed, allowing Obertan to jink towards the penalty area on the right and the winger delivered an inviting centre that Ba beat Gary Cahill to and the ball ballooned into the top corner.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle sent on Kevin Davies and Tuncay but neither could provide the impetus the home side needed.
Tuncay's tame effort was the highlight of the final 15 minutes, but his shot was easily gathered by Krul as Bolton's frailties in front of goal continued.
The only positive news for Trotters fans was Maxi Rodriguez's equaliser for Liverpool, which meant local rivals Blackburn remained bottom of the table.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew:
"Sometimes in the Premier League you have to be patient and the win will come to you.
"We kept disciplined and just as the game was opening up we created the chance and once it landed at Ben Arfa's left foot it was always going in.
"We had centre-half Mike Williamson back and he was my outstanding player.
"We've done terrific and now it is about trying to improve in the second half."
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee signals the end of the game.90:00 +3:32
The ball is sent over by Martin Petrov.90:00 +1:28
The ball is sent over by Martin Petrov, blocked by Fabricio Coloccini. Corner taken by Chris Eagles from the right by-line, Tim Krul makes a save. Dedryck Boyata takes a shot. Save by Tim Krul.87:08 Substitution
Substitution James Perch comes on in place of Yohan Cabaye.85:26
Yohan Cabaye gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Tuncay Sanli. Direct free kick taken by Paul Robinson.83:57
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Ryan Taylor, Header by Shola Ameobi from deep inside the penalty area misses to the left of the target.83:57 Substitution
Substitution Shola Ameobi joins the action as a substitute, replacing Gabriel Obertan.82:28
The ball is swung over by Chris Eagles.81:11
Tuncay Sanli crosses the ball, save by Tim Krul.79:53
Corner taken right-footed by Ryan Taylor from the left by-line to the near post, clearance made by Chris Eagles.77:29
The official flags Kevin Davies offside. Tim Krul takes the free kick.75:51 Substitution
Substitution Tuncay Sanli on for Ivan Klasnic.75:51 Substitution
Substitution Kevin Davies replaces David Ngog.73:53
Demba Ba fouled by Gary Cahill, the ref awards a free kick. Strike comes in from Ryan Taylor from the free kick.73:03
Gabriel Obertan concedes a free kick for a foul on Paul Robinson. Free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.72:17
Demba Ba takes a shot. Jussi Jaaskelainen gets a block in.70:45
Assist on the goal came from Gabriel Obertan.70:45 Goal scored
Goal! - Demba Ba - Bolton 0 - 2 Newcastle Demba Ba finds the back of the net with a goal from inside the six-yard box to the top left corner of the goal. Bolton 0-2 Newcastle.68:28
Assist by Ryan Taylor.68:28 Goal scored
Goal! - Hatem Ben Arfa - Bolton 0 - 1 Newcastle Hatem Ben Arfa grabs a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Bolton 0-1 Newcastle.
Nigel Reo-Coker concedes a free kick for a foul on Cheick Tiote. Ryan Taylor takes the direct free kick.65:46 Substitution
Substitution Chris Eagles joins the action as a substitute, replacing Fabrice Muamba.65:26
Martin Petrov produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide right of the goal.64:10
Demba Ba is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.63:46
Gary Cahill takes a shot. Blocked by Danny Simpson.63:16
Mark Davies produces a cross, Tim Krul makes a clearance.61:56
Gabriel Obertan takes a shot. Paul Robinson gets a block in.60:22
Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the direct free kick.60:22 Substitution
Substitution Hatem Ben Arfa joins the action as a substitute, replacing Leon Best.60:22
Foul by Danny Simpson on Martin Petrov, free kick awarded.59:40
The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Jussi Jaaskelainen.59:11
Nigel Reo-Coker challenges Cheick Tiote unfairly and gives away a free kick. Fabricio Coloccini restarts play with the free kick.58:23
David Ngog is ruled offside. Mike Williamson restarts play with the free kick.56:56
The referee blows for offside. Paul Robinson takes the indirect free kick. Gabriel Obertan takes a shot. Save by Jussi Jaaskelainen.54:07
David Ngog crosses the ball.52:57
Unfair challenge on Nigel Reo-Coker by Jonas Gutierrez results in a free kick. Martin Petrov delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right channel, clearance made by Mike Williamson.52:14
Leon Best delivers the ball.51:23
The ball is delivered by David Ngog.48:56
The ball is swung over by Martin Petrov, save by Tim Krul.47:14
Unfair challenge on Demba Ba by Gary Cahill results in a free kick. The free kick is delivered right-footed by Cheick Tiote from left channel, blocked by Dedryck Boyata.45:26
Martin Petrov sends in a cross.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:00 +2:12 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.45:00 +1:39
Corner taken left-footed by Martin Petrov to the near post, Yohan Cabaye makes a clearance.45:00 +0:58
Corner taken by Martin Petrov, clearance by Yohan Cabaye.42:53
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Ryan Taylor, Header from close range by Leon Best clears the bar.42:30
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Ryan Taylor, Gary Cahill makes a clearance.42:08
Leon Best takes a shot. Nigel Reo-Coker gets a block in.39:49
Unfair challenge on Jonas Gutierrez by Dedryck Boyata results in a free kick. Free kick crossed left-footed by Ryan Taylor, clearance by Paul Robinson.38:47
Martin Petrov takes a shot. Save made by Tim Krul.37:49
Foul by Yohan Cabaye on Nigel Reo-Coker, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Mark Davies.37:11
Outswinging corner taken left-footed by Martin Petrov from the left by-line.37:01
The ball is crossed by Martin Petrov, Danny Simpson gets a block in.35:51
Direct free kick taken by Paul Robinson.35:51 Booking
Booking Cheick Tiote receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.35:48
Cheick Tiote concedes a free kick for a foul on Nigel Reo-Coker.32:41
Ryan Taylor takes the free kick.32:41 Booking
Booking Booking for Ivan Klasnic.32:38
Ivan Klasnic gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Cheick Tiote.30:25
Demba Ba is ruled offside. Jussi Jaaskelainen takes the direct free kick.29:50
David Ngog concedes a free kick for a foul on Fabricio Coloccini. Tim Krul takes the free kick.24:18
The ball is sent over by Dedryck Boyata, Tim Krul makes a comfortable save.23:53
Mike Williamson gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on David Ngog. Direct free kick taken by Nigel Reo-Coker.23:03
Nigel Reo-Coker fouled by Cheick Tiote, the ref awards a free kick. Paul Robinson takes the free kick.22:35
Leon Best is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Zat Knight takes the indirect free kick.20:22
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Fabrice Muamba by Cheick Tiote. Paul Robinson restarts play with the free kick.19:15
Jonas Gutierrez takes a shot. Blocked by Nigel Reo-Coker.18:17
The referee blows for offside against David Ngog. Tim Krul restarts play with the free kick.13:10
Ryan Taylor has an effort direct from the free kick, save by Jussi Jaaskelainen. The assistant referee flags for offside against David Ngog.12:39
Yohan Cabaye has an effort at goal from outside the area which goes wide left of the target.11:42
Jonas Gutierrez delivers the ball, blocked by Mark Davies.10:58
A cross is delivered by Dedryck Boyata.7:30
Nigel Reo-Coker fouled by Cheick Tiote, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Gary Cahill.6:24
Foul by Gary Cahill on Demba Ba, free kick awarded. Ryan Taylor takes the free kick.2:23
The offside flag is raised against Demba Ba. Jussi Jaaskelainen restarts play with the free kick.1:27
Centre by Leon Best.0:17
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Nigel Reo-Coker by Cheick Tiote. Direct free kick taken by Paul Robinson.0:00
The game begins.
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