DARYL Murphy snatched a point for Wanderers – but the impossible dream has drifted that bit further away for Keith Hill’s side.

Now a massive 20 points from safety after MK Dons claimed victory against Rochdale, the chances of survival in League One are looking miniscule, no matter what happens in the final few days of the January transfer window.

The watching board advisor Peter Kenyon will have seen plain as day how badly Keith Hill needs reinforcements, even more so given his new signing Will Buckley was stretchered off the pitch just four minutes after coming on as a substitute.

Jonson Clarke-Harris had put Bristol ahead just after the hour mark, bringing on a real sense of dread and despair around the UniBol.

And though Murphy’s eighth goal of the season ignited a little bit of passion in the previously passive Bolton crowd, the win they do desperately needed to keep alive those League One hopes never looked likely to arrive.

It was another tale of square pegs and round holes. Hill is working hard to try and find a formula that works but by his own admission those experiments are failing regularly. He does need new signings, if only to see this season out with some real dignity, but Wanderers need to make sure their recruitment is root and branch this summer if they are to have any chance of bouncing back.

Hill brought Daryl Murphy back into the starting line-up after he had been withdrawn from the reckoning against Portsmouth for personal reasons.

Joe Dodoo, who had missed training this week through illness, was dropped to the bench, where he was joined for the first time by Joe Bunney.

Without the superb reactions of Remi Matthews, the game might well have escaped Wanderers’ reach long before half time.

The Bolton keeper had no time to settle into the game, called into action after just five minutes to block Ed Upson’s effort from point-blank range.

It became a running theme that Wanderers would be camped in their own penalty box defending set pieces – and referee Andy Haines seemed intent on blowing up for every piece of physical contact he could. The result was a fragmented spectacle indeed.

Toto Nsiala impressed by being the man most regularly in the right place at the right time. The on-loan Ipswich defender had his most encouraging outing in a Bolton shirt to date.

It was by no means the biggest crowd of the season but was an unusually quiet one in the first 45 minutes, the only rushes of emotion directed towards Rovers’ wide man Josh Ginnelly for his role in earning Ronan Darcy a yellow card.

Otherwise there was little to warm the cockles on a bitterly cold night.

Wanderers’ attacking forays were rare. Daryl Murphy should have done better when he connected with Josh Emmanuel’s cross and Dennis Politic had an effort at the end of the half which looped off Tony Craig’s boot and over the bar. But the football was too often overtly direct and the big striker struggled to link up effectively.

Matthews made another fine stop on the half hour, diving low to his right to block Ollie Clarke’s glanced header and then seeing the covering Jason Lowe and Nsiala hook the ball off the line from just inside the post.

Hill would have been pleased to go in at half time on level terms but it was no great surprise to see him change things shortly after the restart. Dodoo came on to replace Josh Emmanuel to inject a bit of direct pace up front, with Lowe moving out to full-back as Wanderers went to a 4-4-2 formation.

Luke Leahy should have opened the scoring for the visitors as he latched on to Clarke’s cross to volley wastefully wide from 10 yards out.

And moments later Politic almost took full advantage, cutting in from his new post on the left to wind his way past two challenges and fire a low shot at goal which sadly dropped just the wrong side of the post.

The game, it seemed, was finally starting to shape up. Wanderers still looked disjointed but were at least starting to retain some possession and ask some questions of the visiting defence. And then came the sucker punch.

Clarke’s low cross should have been cleared at the near post by Liam Edwards but he seemed to get a call to leave it – and Clarke-Harris needed no second invitation to tuck the ball into the net.

Things then went from bad to worse. Hill brought off Darcy – who had been wasted in a wide role, in truth – and brought on Buckley, now about to start his third stint as a Wanderers player.

Within five minutes the midfielder lay in a heap, pounding the floor in despair after appearing to injure his knee. He left the field on a stretcher and Bolton’s chances seemed to have been heading back down the tunnel with him.

But to their eternal credit, Wanderers dug deep. They kept the ball in the Bristol half and were rewarded with a corner, whipped in by Hamilton and headed home by Daryl Murphy.

Suddenly the stadium kicked into life again but the winning goal people craved never really looked like materialising, even with eight minutes of added time.