Barnsley, who came into the game on the back of four straight defeats, created several opportunities before the evergreen Kevin Davies made the most of good work from Chris Eagles to give Bolton a first-half lead.
Dougie Freedman's side should arguably have extended their advantage thereafter, with Eagles and Mark Davies prominent.
However, Barnsley refused to give up and levelled when Craig Davies, back from a hamstring problem, fired home via Adam Bogdan's right-hand post in the 65th minute.
Bolton, lining up in a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation, started the brighter, but it was not long before home goalkeeper Bogdan was called upon to deal with 20-yard efforts from on-loan Marcus Tudgay and Craig Davies.
Tudgay also headed over from Scott Golbourne's left-wing cross and Matt Done's powerful strike from long distance forced Bogdan into further action.
Yet Barnsley fell behind when Eagles broke down the right and picked out the unmarked Kevin Davies, who had time to control the ball before finding the bottom-left corner.
After providing an assist, the lively Eagles had the opportunity to double Bolton's lead eight minutes later, only to shoot tamely at Luke Steele after bursting into the area.
The home crowd were left exasperated when referee Carl Berry blew for a foul against Barnsley when playing advantage would have allowed David Ngog to gallop through on goal.
Berry was booed off at the interval, but Bolton's fans were rising to applaud seven minutes into the second half when a delightful scoop from Eagles led to Mark Davies volleying goalwards and Steele pulling off an acrobatic stop.
The central midfielder was denied again within 60 seconds, yet Barnsley remained a threat and Done fired inches wide following a quick free-kick from substitute Reuben Noble-Lazarus.
Bolton did not heed the warning and Craig Davies duly levelled after being given time to shoot from 25 yards.
Both sides then had chances to snatch all three points in an action-packed finale with substitute Keith Andrews heading an Eagles free-kick wide for Bolton, who also saw Kevin Davies bring two saves from Steele after Tudgay had seen a close-range effort scrambled away at the other end.