Bolton's 11-year stay in the Premier League has come to an end after being held to a draw at Stoke.
Only a win - and a QPR defeat at Manchester City - would have kept the Trotters up but they fell behind when Jonathan Walters bundled in.
Mark Davies' deflected goal and a cross from namesake Kevin, which snuck past Thomas Sorensen, gave Bolton the lead.
But Walters's goal from the penalty spot, after a foul on Peter Crouch, consigned the Trotters to the drop.
Coyle aggrieved after relegation
To rub salt in the wound for Bolton, both the goals they conceded were controversial - the first because Walters knocked the ball out of Adam Bogdan's hands and into the net and the second as Crouch appeared to go down very easily under the challenge from the Bolton keeper in follow-up to his own saved shot.
In addition, two injury-time Manchester City goals against 10-man QPR meant a win would have extended Wanderers stay in the top flight.
In truth, much of the damage was done in the final 15 minutes of last week's penultimate round of fixtures, which saw Bolton throw away a two-goal home lead to West Brom while Rangers were snatching a last-gasp 1-0 win over Stoke to leave Bolton fighting against the tide.
The finale of that game illustrated exactly why Bolton faced such grave circumstances heading into this game as a mixture of naivety and ineptitude meant they failed to see out a game that was all-but won.
Fittingly, the game at the Britannia Stadium was a similarly tense rollercoaster of an encounter, in keeping with what has been the most unpredictable of battles at the bottom of the Premier League.
Bolton's top-flight stay ends
Relegation brings to an end an 11-year stay by Bolton in the top flight, which represents the club's longest top-flight stint since the near 30-year stretch from 1935-64.
Bolton looked down and out when Stoke took the lead in the 13th minute as Walters bundled the ball out of the hands of visiting keeper Adam Bogdan and in. It looked to be a foul but referee Chris Foy allowed it to stand, much to the chagrin of Trotters boss Owen Coyle.
A dubious goal it may have been but it gave Stoke a deserved lead following a confident beginning from them and a meek start to such a key fixture from the away side.
However, Bolton battled back and things looked to have turned in their favour just before half-time courtesy of two bizarre goals.
A long goal kick from Bogdan was allowed to reach the Stoke box before home defender Andy Wilkinson struck his attempted clearance straight at Mark Davies and the ball ricocheted into the net to level matters.
Then, a serious misjudgement from Thomas Sorensen allowed Kevin Davies's cross from the right to sneak past him at the near post and put Wanderers in front.
Around the same time, Pablo Zabaleta gave Manchester City the lead over QPR to temporarily lift Bolton out of the drop zone.
The situation changed again in the second half when two QPR goals, either side of Walters' penalty plunged Bolton back into the bottom three.
With their relegation seemingly sealed for good, Bolton lost heart and once a Tim Ream header from a corner was saved by Sorensen they accepted their fate, unprepared for the potential redemption that was to be offered to them in the last few minutes at the Etihad.
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
Outswinging corner taken by Martin Petrov, Tim Ream takes a shot. Save by Thomas Sorensen.
The ball is crossed by Chung-Yong Lee.
Marvin Sordell takes a shot. Corner taken by Chung-Yong Lee. Corner taken right-footed by Chung-Yong Lee from the right by-line, Effort on goal by Martin Petrov from outside the box goes harmlessly over the bar.
Outswinging corner taken by Martin Petrov from the left by-line, save by Thomas Sorensen.
Martin Petrov takes a outswinging corner. Outswinging corner taken by Chung-Yong Lee from the right by-line.
The offside flag is raised against Cameron Jerome. Adam Bogdan takes the free kick.
Direct free kick taken by Martin Petrov.
Booking Booking for Robert Huth for unsporting behaviour.
Robert Huth concedes a free kick for a foul on David Ngog.
Shot from deep inside the area by Chung-Yong Lee clears the crossbar.
Substitution Marvin Sordell comes on in place of Kevin Davies.
Substitution (Bolton) makes a substitution, with Chung-Yong Lee coming on for Chris Eagles.
Andy Wilkinson concedes a free kick for a foul on Chris Eagles. Tim Ream takes the free kick.
The assist for the goal came from Peter Crouch.
76:54 Goal scored
Goal - Jonathan Walters - Stoke 2 - 2 Bolton Jonathan Walters scores a power penalty. Stoke 2-2 Bolton.
Adam Bogdan gives away a Penalty for an unfair challenge on Peter Crouch.
Foul by Andy Wilkinson on Chris Eagles, free kick awarded. Martin Petrov produces a shot on goal direct from the free kick.
The ball is sent over by Peter Crouch, save made by Adam Bogdan.
Shot from long range by Kevin Davies misses to the left of the target.
Ryan Shotton gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on David Ngog. Indirect free kick taken by Adam Bogdan.
Substitution David Ngog joins the action as a substitute, replacing Ivan Klasnic.
Martin Petrov produces a cross.
Ryan Shotton produces a cross.
Substitution (Stoke) makes a substitution, with Ryan Shotton coming on for Matthew Upson.
Shot by Matthew Etherington from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
Matthew Etherington sends in a cross, clearance by Tim Ream.
The ball is delivered by Martin Petrov, clearance made by Matthew Upson.
Shot from deep inside the area by Ivan Klasnic goes over the bar.
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