Ashley Barnes missed his second penalty of the season before David Ngog equalised with virtually the last kick of the game in a match in which Brighton switched between sublime and woeful.
For 99 per cent of Saturday’s game the Seagulls produced arguably their most impressive display of the season, orchestrated by the increasingly eye-catching Spaniard Andrea Orlandi.
However, despite bossing large periods and creating a string of chances, Brighton were left ruing the missing one per cent – the end product; the clinical finish.
Swashbuckling right-back Bruno found the net from outside the box with a tantalising volley having controlled a poor Bolton clearance on his chest in the 54th minute. It was the very least Gus Poyet’s men deserved against a Bolton outfit who rarely trotted over the half way line.
Ex-Crystal Palace villain in chief Dougie Freedman arrived at The Amex with his Bolton team unbeaten since his surprise arrival, but he left full of praise for an Albion outfit which managed to run riot in the midfield but fall flat in the final third.
Orlandi was impressive alongside Dean Hammond and the ever-dependable Liam Bridcutt, and went close with a dipping long-range effort which hit the bar – with Hammond seeing an equally accurate strike turned onto the post a mere 30 seconds later. In fact, the more the Spaniard got on the ball, the higher the home side’s tempo and the more troubled the Trotters looked.
Craig Mackail-Smith missed a good chance to give Brighton the lead on an unusually quiet day for the Scottish hitman but it was Barnes, operating in his left side of a forward three slot, who was most guilty in front of goal.
Barnes, who is often unfairly scapegoated by The Amex faithful, had an appalling time of things, summed up by a second half air shot and a first half penalty miss which was only half as bad as the pathetic follow-up attempt.
The cheers which greeted his substitution were unwarranted – Barnes is a player who is playing in a position not best suited to him and who does provide vital cover on the left in the absence of Wayne Bridge – but perhaps understandable as the home fans began to suspect an inability to add to a lead was going to result in another late sucker-punch.
As it was, the Bolton equaliser was more painful than the shot which ended Ricky Hatton’s fight career. Bruno, who had moments earlier pulled up with a muscle problem, was beaten for pace on Bolton’s right flank and Ngog found enough time and composure in a crowded box to side-foot home an equaliser.
Brighton had not been so much robbed as snuck up on at a cash point, coshed over the head and had their trainers pinched as well as their wallet.
However, the feeling remains that the team is at times its own worst enemy. An inability to put matches to bed when dominating could come back and bite them by the end of the season.
Match ratings: Kuszczak 7, Painter 7, Bruno 8, Dunk 7, Greer 6, Hammond 7, Bridcutt 7, Orlandi 8, Barnes 4, Mackail-Smith 6, Buckley 7. Subs: Calderon 6, Crofts 5, Hoskins 6.