Bolton 0 Portsmouth 1
Portsmouth snatched the unlikeliest of victories with a disputed Lassana Diarra goal after Bolton wasted a string of chances at the Reebok Stadium.
Diarra fired past Jussi Jaaskelainen in the 80th minute despite being in an offside position when the ball was deflected to him off team-mate Kanu.
Wanderers may have felt they got a good price for Nicolas Anelka when they sold him to Chelsea for £15m last month but many more performances like this and the departure of the striker could end up costing them dearly.
Despite dominating the entire match there was no cutting edge to Bolton with many of their openings falling to former Pompey midfielder Matt Taylor, the best of which saw him balloon the ball over an empty goal from Kevin Davies’ 31st-minute cross.
Portsmouth did not have a shot on target until the 79th minute, but seconds later they scored the winner.
It had been a completely different story up to that point as the hosts enjoyed the majority of possession.
In only the third minute Kevin Davies turned and drove in a shot, which David James comfortably held to his chest.
Danny Guthrie won an eighth-minute free-kick 30 yards out when he was fouled by Papa Bouba Diop but Taylor, playing against the club he left last month for £3.5million, blazed over.
Guthrie was then presented with an opportunity from Gretar Steinsson’s right-wing cross but his header was blocked by Hermann Hreidarsson as Bolton enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening 10 minutes.
The right side continued to be the hosts’ best avenue of attack and Davies again headed straight at James from another cross in the 16th minute.
Despite Bolton playing with only Davies up front in a 4-1-4-1 formation, Pompey could not seem to create any openings down either flank as both full-backs were stifled in a crowded midfield.
Guthrie’s robust challenge on Noe Pamarot forced the Portsmouth left-back off in the 27th minute, to be replaced by Lucien Aubey.
Taylor then fired wide for the hosts after Hreidarsson’s half-cleared header fell to his favoured left foot 20 yards out.
Diarra’s attempt to inject some purpose into Portsmouth’s attacking play was brought to an ungainly halt by Guthrie, who was booked for his lunge.
Bolton should have been ahead in the 31st minute when Davies broke free on the right of the penalty area to cross for Taylor, who somehow ballooned over an open goal from five yards.
The midfielder then saw his drive from El-Hadji Diouf’s cut-back on the left catch Lauren full in the face and rebound to safety.
Portsmouth were so woeful in the first half manager Harry Redknapp replaced on-loan striker Milan Baros with Kanu.
But it was still a similar story with Davies outpacing Hreidarsson down the right and pulling back for both Guthrie and Taylor to miskick.
It did not seem to be Taylor’s day as after Diouf had sent Steinsson clear, he crossed to the near post where the midfielder stabbed wide with his right foot.
Davies was next to spurn an opportunity in the 54th minute, springing the offside trap but turning the ball straight at James from the right of the area.
On-loan Southampton forward Grzegorz Rasiak made his debut as a 60th-minute substitute and he was straight into the action when Ivan Campo lobbed the ball over the top of the defence, forcing James to parry away his first-time shot.
Another chance went begging when Campo’s long throw was played on by Davies and Andy O’Brien, the second ex-Portsmouth player in Bolton’s side, stabbed goalwards only for Hreidarsson to clear off the line.
Steinsson then brought a one-handed reflex save out of James when he slid in on Taylor’s inswinging corner.
And they were nearly made to pay when Jermain Defoe’s stabbed shot from close range was deflected for a corner, from which Diarra forced Jaaskelainen into his first save of the afternoon.
And it was Diarra who grabbed a controversial winner in the 80th minute.
He drove forward and laid off a pass but as O’Brien put in a tackle the ball appeared to rebound off Kanu and into the path of Diarra, clearly in an offside position.
With no flag the midfielder did not hesitate in drilling a shot past Jaaskelainen.