This was supposed to be the game where Rotherham finally ended their Championship away hoodoo and breathed fresh life into their season.
The Millers headed to Bolton, who were without a win since the end of September and hamstrung by off-the-field issues, and would have fancied ending their own drought that stretches back to April 2016.
But they put in one of their poorest displays of the season and ended up slipping to a damaging defeat.
Goals from Sammy Ameobi and Gary O'Neil either side of Will Vaulks' equaliser gave Bolton a first win in 14 games and has them breathing down the Millers' neck.
While Paul Warne's men were outclassed in their 4-0 defeat to West Brom on Saturday, a result most people were willing to write off, they let themselves down in exactly the sort of game that will determine their fate this season.
They fell behind, having been the more composed side, in the 33rd minute when Ameobi fired home with a left footed effort from 18 yards.
But the Millers responded immediately as Vaulks headed home Joe Newell's cross three minutes later.
With Bolton not having much experience of winning lately, the Millers will have really been eyeing a strong second half, but it was Phil Parkinson's men that claimed it through Gary O'Neil's 65th-minute strike.
“Going in at half-time at 1-1 in a game of few chances I thought we would be the stronger in the second half,” Warne admitted
“Did we do enough to win the match? I am not sure. I don’t think we deserved to lose.
“We go dragged into a little bit the way they were playing.
"Our goal came from the fact we switched the play really well, got the free-kick and put a good ball in.
“I couldn’t see us losing. But unfortunately we are conceding goals which is something we need to look at.
“We have all got to try and get better because we want to win football matches. But the effort is unquestionable.
“However, there were times on the ball when we didn’t make enough good decisions. We might have made two but we didn’t make three.
“Or we made three but didn’t make four so we didn’t create enough chances to win a match.”
All of a sudden those string of draws over the last couple of months are beginning to hurt the Millers as they sit a point above the drop zone.
They have won just once in 17 games and face a run of fixtures that will decide how the second half of the campaign pans out.