Midfielders Mark Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker gave the home side a deserved 2-0 lead inside half-an-hour and although Craig Bellamy's seventh of the season reduced the deficit Gretar Steinsson restored the two-goal cushion just five minutes into the second half.
The victory saw Wanderers move out of the bottom three with a performance full of desire and tenacity which, especially in the first half, had the visitors looking at each other quizzically.
Liverpool's excellent record against Bolton counted for little as early as the fourth minute when the home side took the lead. Martin Skrtel stepped out to meet Chris Eagles' pass into David Ngog but the former Reds striker moved it on to Davies who charged into the penalty area to shoot low just inside Jose Reina's left-hand post.
Eagles should have made it 2-0 when he held off the challenge of Jose Enrique as he ran in from the touchline only to fire a cross-shot past the far post from a narrow angle. Bellamy then had one shot blocked by David Wheater while Andy Carroll headed straight at Adam Bogdan from Steven Gerrard's crossfield pass.
After Maxi Rodriguez's penalty appeal for the ball hitting Zat Knight's arm was rejected Bolton all too easily carved open Liverpool's defence for a second time. Eagles was again the instigator, coming off the right touchline to chip the ball over the centre-backs for Reo-Coker to stab home.
Carroll was coming into the game more and after one first-time pass sent Bellamy racing through to shoot at Bogdan his flick-on led to a goal. His header from Reina's clearance sent the Welshman racing through and this time he cleverly clipped the ball past the Bolton goalkeeper.
Liverpool's hopes of redressing the balance early in the second half were snuffed out after just five minutes when Wheater headed Martin Petrov's corner back across goal and Steinsson slid a shot inside the post.
The chances were still falling to Carroll though but his luck did not improve as he blazed over from Davies' mis-control in the penalty area before completely missing Stewart Downing's cut-back. Defender Daniel Agger had come closer moments earlier when his long-range drive clipped the top of the crossbar.
Carroll, without a league goal since October 29, continued to labour in front of net, typified by his complete miskick from Downing's cut-back. Liverpool's attacking in the closing stages became even more desperate but they rarely looked like threatening Bogdan.