After two false starts at Mansfield it looked like a lonely drive back as they trailed by two with 18 minutes left on the clock.
But after Declan John set the ball rolling with a cross-shot – his second in as many games – an own goal quickly followed. And then out of the Mansfield mire arose King Arthur.
Substitute Gnahoua’s finish earned a quite unexpected three points and put Ian Evatt’s side into 11th spot ahead of their long trip to Southend United this weekend.
Evatt made two changes from the side that beat Stevenage, bringing Kieran Lee back into the side after self-isolation for George Thomason and swapping Lloyd Isgrove for Nathan Delfouneso.
All the pre-match talk had been about the playing surface, which had been responsible for two wasted journeys before this game finally went ahead.
The turf cut up during the warm-up but thankfully the rain which had been forecast prior to kick-off only arrived towards the end of the first half. The conditions, while far from perfect, did not impact massively on what proved a pretty entertaining affair.
Wanderers’ best chance of the opening 45 minutes was made and nearly finished by West Ham loanee Dapo Afolayan. Cutting in off the left, he beat a man with a step-over then drilled a low shot against the inside of Aidan Stone’s right-hand post.
Other half-chances came and went. Marcus Maddison came close to collecting a majestic sweeping pass over the top from Ricardo Santos and moments later was nearly played in on goal by Eoin Doyle after some fine football on the edge of the box.
That is not to say Bolton had it all their own way. Mansfield played some neat stuff when they got the opportunity and went close when Jordan Bowery seemed to block a goal-bound shot from his team-mate Stephen Quinn.
The Stags also had a decent shout for a penalty as Quinn and Maddison tangled early on but referee Antony Scoggins waved away the appeals.
Midway through the half Evatt would have had a heart-in-mouth moment as Matt Gilks landed awkwardly after trying to punch away a corner from Stephen McLaughlin. With no keeper on the bench, there was a sizeable portion of the Bolton fanbase poised to say ‘I told you so’ but, to his relief, the veteran was soon giving a thumbs up to the bench and was happy to continue.
In the melee, Alex Baptiste had made a goal-line clearance. And when ref Scoggins restarted with a drop ball, Peter Sweeney headed McLaughlin’s cross narrowly over the bar.
John finished the half strongly, ever-eager to push on from the left flank and put some pressure on the Mansfield goal. The Welshman had a couple of efforts blocked close in – the second of which nearly dropped to Doyle for a tap-in.
Playing into the more heavily scarred side of the pitch in the second half, Wanderers continued to produce some enterprising stuff around the penalty box.
Afolayan fizzed a pass out for Maddison on the corner of the area and though the winger managed to get a yard on his marker, he couldn’t squeeze a shot inside the far post.
Once again the pendulum swung back the other way and Bowery’s fierce cross-shot bounced off the woodwork with Gilks in close attendance.
For the first few minutes of the half at least, Wanderers continued to try and play intricate football in areas of the pitch that looked better suited to potato farming. Afolayan produced a lovely ball for Maddison on the corner of the box and after he beat his man, the low cross he produced was simply begging to be turned into the net.
No sooner had Evatt brought Nathan Delfouneso on to replace the tiring Maddison, than Mansfield produced a telling blow.
Ollie Clarke was willed on by a hesitant Bolton back line and his stinging shot managed to squirm past Gilks, dropping apologetically over the line.
Wanderers struggled to get themselves going again after the goal but Mansfield sensed that the game could be killed off completely. And so it happened on 72 minutes as Quinn slid a ball in behind Baptiste and Reid produced a quality finish for the second of the night.
Evatt had sent Gnahoua on seconds earlier to try and revive some attacking intent but with the clock ticking down their chances did not look good.
Not in a million years would you believe that just 11 minutes later, Bolton would be 3-2 up.
John was the catalyst. After one cross caused panic in the Mansfield box, the Swansea loanee got down the touchline again a few moments later, this time lashing a shot into the top corner and halving the deficit.
He got forward again six minutes later to drive a low cross towards the front post which took a nick off sub Mal Benning to bury itself into the back of the net.
Mansfield very nearly struck straight back – and while Gnahoua will get the headlines, Baptiste’s outstanding block to deny Reid his second goal at 2-2 was a pivotal moment.
Then, it happened. Doyle and MJ Williams combined to leave Gnahoua bearing in on goal and the winger smashed a shot into the top corner to seal a quite sensational comeback.
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