Whether it was a tolling bell for automatic promotion chances or just a Pompey chime, it is too early to tell, but this long trip to Fratton Park looked a step too far from minute one. 

Even though Dion Charles managed to put Wanderers into the ascendancy just after half time, this was a most un-Bolton like performance from start to finish. 

Pompey thoroughly deserved to get on level terms through Ryley Towler, and that lit the touchpaper for two more goals before the end – Towler adding his second and Colby Bishop the third of the night. 

And there will be few complaints among the Bolton players who, in their heart of hearts, will know they were simply not on their game all night. 

Evatt had managed to keep a few of his players fresh for the trip to the Solent and made four changes to the team that beat Port Vale. 

Kieran Lee, Dion Charles, Declan John and Gethin Jones came into the line-up hoping to avoid the slow start made at the weekend. In truth, they had the energy but nothing like the execution they needed. 

Wanderers were sloppy in possession for the majority of the first half – the problem spreading right from the back with James Trafford, through Kieran Lee in midfield. It was not immediately clear if that was down to the pitch, as Pompey’s players appeared to have nowhere near the same issues, but the Whites’ normal passing game came in fits and starts, and they looked glad to reach the break goalless. 

That is not to say Bolton did not have chances. An unmarked Shola Shoreitre headed wide from Aaron Morley’s free kick and Joe Rafferty made an important intervention to halt Charles on a run to goal. 

But Portsmouth looked much more likely to make the breakthrough, and goodness knows how they did not manage it midway through the half when Trafford’s dithering on a clearance gifted a chance to Dale – though he and Ricardo Santos then managed between them to block the shot and see the ball out for a corner. 

An early caution for Ricardo Santos for a tangle with Bishop spelled trouble. Ref Stephen Martin came into the game on somewhat of a card-streak and the home crowd bellowed for punishment each time one of the Pompey players dropped to the ground. 

Evatt also picked up a yellow after remonstrating with the officials once too often – but his mood cannot have been helped by the inconsistency his side was showing on the ball. 

Shoretire’s heading may require some work but there was nothing wrong with his close control, and the Manchester United loanee looked Bolton’s best bet to unlock something as he came into the game towards the end of the half, drawing defenders out of their comfort zone. 

Though the last chance of the half fell to Pompey, with Ogilvie heading just wide, Wanderers had started to metaphorically and literally find their feet on the unpredictable surface. 

And straight after the restart, the Whites were ahead.  

Having complained for so long that Bolton’s set pieces have been utterly fruitless this season, it has rather crept up on us that they are now scoring with regularity. Whatever work has been done on the training ground is to be congratulated – and when Morley played a dangerous ball in from the right, Santos made a nuisance of himself, the ball eventually dropping for Charles to ram home from close range. 

It should have been three a few minutes later when Shoretire and John combined effortlessly on the left to cut a swathe into the penalty box for Dempsey, whose angled drive in front of the 592 away supporters whistled just wide of Matt Macey’s goal. 

At that point Wanderers were playing their best football of the game but, gradually, things began to unravel again. Perhaps it was their efforts to slow things down – eat up valuable seconds on restarts – but it worked against their grip on the game. And as the rain started to bucket down, so Pompey’s belief began to grow.  

Santos and Jones had already made scrambling clearances in their own six yard box but Joe Rafferty’s wind-assisted free kick skipped off the turf, defenders could only watch as Towler powered a header past Trafford. 

With the crowd boosted, Bolton were now really up against it. Jones and Bradley had stemmed the tide with a couple of vital clearances but the adrenaline was pumping through the Pompey attack by that point, and it was only a matter of time before the broke through. 

Towler managed it again, finishing well from Rafferty’s whipped cross. Concentration once again absent in the Bolton defending. 

And two became three by the end. Ex-Accrington Stanley striker Bishop flicking home neatly from another set piece – and once again unencumbered by any sort of marker. 

Wanderers had already played their hand from the bench. Neither Dan Nlundulu nor Elias Kachunga were able to make a dent at a time when Pompey were doing all the attacking. 

How damaging the result will be, only time will tell. One thing is for certain, Evatt’s men cannot afford to let the disappointment linger. Their next opponent, Morecambe, will be praying they do.