The Canaries dominated the first half and should have been well ahead by half-time, but their profligacy, and the Bolton woodwork, left them frustrated.
The game looked set to peter out into a dull goalless draw until Surman volleyed home in the 70th minute and Pilkington wrapped up the win just before the end with an instinctive finish after Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan had parried Russell Martin’s drive.
It may not have been glamorous, and their finishing was extremely poor at times, but the win is yet another home success for the promoted side, who continue to defy expectations and still sit comfortably in mid-table.
Bolton, meanwhile, dropped back into the relegation zone after a poor showing which will do little to convince their doubters they can stay up despite their decent run of form that preceded Saturday’s game.
Norwich manager Paul Lambert admitted on Friday that his side were still hurting from their 3-0 midweek humbling at Sunderland and his players seemed intent on bouncing back with three points today from the off.
Daniel Ayala cut out an early Sam Ricketts cross for Bolton, but the Trotters otherwise spent the majority of the opening exchanges on the back foot.
Zak Whitbread headed David Fox’s cross wide before Grant Holt drew Bogdan into his first save with a tame volley after Simeon Jackson and Pilkington combined well down the right.
Jackson fired wide after Surman cut the ball back from an acute angle and Bogdan prevented the Canadian from scoring again minutes later after he took advantage of some poor marking to collect Holt’s flick-on and shot at goal.
Ayala’s crunching tackle to deny Chris Eagles at the other end won him the applause of the home support, but it came at a price as he hobbled off and was replaced by Martin.
The hosts’ best move of the first half came in the 24th minute when Wes Hoolahan played in Holt and he squared to Surman, but his shot struck the crossbar and rebounded to safety.
Lambert was forced into another defensive reshuffle before the break when Whitbread came off injured and was replaced by winger Elliott Bennett.
The youngster moved to right back and Kyle Naughton shifted out of position to centre-half.
Bolton started to come into it more towards the end of the first half and went close just before the break through a deflected Martin Petrov drive.
The Canaries should have been ahead two minutes after the break when Adam Drury found Holt unmarked at the back post but his dreadful header flew 10 yards wide.
Jackson missed another two chances and it appeared the home side were not going to get their breakthrough despite their dominance.
Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy, meanwhile, made his first save of the game from David Ngog, who had been joined in attack by substitute Kevin Davies.
Hoolahan raced through but Ricketts tracked back well before Bolton flew down the other end but Naughton did well to deny Davies at the back post from Eagles’ cross.
Jackson then turned David Wheater but could only sidefoot a weak shot at Bogdan as the home fans began to get nervous.
Those nerves disappeared in the 70th minute, however, thanks to Surman’s strike.
The midfielder saw his initial effort rebound off Wheater after an excellent cross from Jackson but the ball fell straight back into the path and he drilled a peach of a volley past Bogdan from around 10 yards.
Bolton boss Owen Coyle brought on Tuncay Sanli for Eagles soon after as Bolton looked for an immediate reply and Jackson then came off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Morison for Norwich.
Petrov stung Ruddy’s palms with a fierce half-volley 11 minutes from time as Bolton launched an aerial assault.
Holt somehow cleared the bar from three yards the following minute from Pilkington’s curling cross while Marvin Sordell came on for his debut in the place of the ineffective Ngog.
Bolton never really looked like equalising, the home fans remained anxious on what was a bitterly cold afternoon in Norfolk.
The crowd could finally breathe easily five minutes from time when Martin’s shot rebounded into the path of Pilkington and he drilled home from eight yards.