Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was left to rue his side's lack of cutting edge after Bolton sealed a "smash-and-grab" victory at Bramall Lane.
Former Sheffield Wednesday striker Gary Madine netted the game's only goal in the 21st minute to secure a 1-0 away win which prevented the Blades from breaking their record all-time points tally in a calendar year.
The sixth-placed hosts created several chances in the game, but strikers Clayton Donaldson and Leon Clarke were denied by Ben Alnwick, and Clarke's close-range effort deep into stoppage time ended on the roof of the net.
And Wilder said: "It was very frustrating. We created chances, but we were poor in finishing it off and we made poor decisions in the final third.
"It was a massive missed opportunity and a smash-and-grab victory from our opponents. There was nothing tactical about their goal. If there was then we would have conceded several times.
"We were the dominant team, but that doesn't mean we are the better team. We need to be more ruthless in both boxes to sustain our league position.
"We had a sensible talk because we keep being a mug side. We knew how they played but it didn't work for us today.
"They analysed how we played and were able to get in behind. All they did was whack it up to Madine and it cost us. I'd prefer my teams not to play like that.
"We defended poorly out wide. It wasn't anything to do with them playing better. We've not marked well enough in the box.
"It became a scrappy game after 15 minutes but we came out well.
"We dominated the game but we lacked that quality that I believe would have won us the game. We were the better team and that last little bit was missing."