Premier League leaders Chelsea made hard work of Bolton but they advance to the Capital One Cup fourth round thanks to Oscar’s second-half strike in a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech was captain, starting for the first time this season after being displaced as first choice by Thibaut Courtois, but his services were barely required as the Blues dominated.
Andre Schurrle spurned a host of chances and Bolton goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan was in fine form to deny the hosts.
French defender Kurt Zouma, on his debut, struck from a corner after 25 minutes to break the deadlock but the anticipated flood of goals did not materialise.
Chelsea’s profligacy was punished and their defensive frailties exposed when Bolton captain Matt Mills headed in an equaliser six minutes later with their only real opportunity.
It denied Cech a clean sheet and leaves the normally miserly Blues with one shutout in seven matches this season.
Oscar saved his side’s blushes by striking from 25 yards out after 55 minutes for what proved to be the winner in a contest which should have been far more comfortable for Jose Mourinho’s men.
Still Didier Drogba, who came on as a substitute 18 minutes from time, must wait for the first goal of his second spell.
Drogba netted 157 goals in 341 appearances in his eight-year first spell, including during the Champions League final win in Munich in 2012.
The Ivory Coast striker did not have an opportunity of note on a night when Chelsea were left to ponder how fearsome their strikeforce is without Diego Costa, whose hamstring problem currently limits him to one game a week.
Drogba’s most telling contribution was in his own box, clearing a Bolton corner in the final moments.
Bolton are opponents who come with some nostalgia for Chelsea, who made nine changes with only Cesar Azpilicueta and former Wanderer Gary Cahill retained from the side which draw at Manchester City.
Two goals from Frank Lampard at Bolton secured the 2-0 win which confirmed Chelsea’s first championship in 50 years in 2005.
The Blues also won the League Cup nine years ago, in Mourinho’s first season in English football, and, as the first silverware on offer in the season, it can provide a boost at a crucial stage in the campaign.
The visitors have one win in eight Championship matches and made five changes from the side which lost at Wolves, including a debut for Chris Herd, a loan signing from Aston Villa, who visit Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Chelsea’s fringe stars were told to seize their opportunity to impress and they could have put the game out of sight in the opening quarter.
World Cup winner Schurrle had a wickedly inswinging free-kick clawed behind by Lonergan before his weak header from Mohamed Salah’s cross.
Lonergan saved from Oscar, Salah prodded wide, Remy headed off target and Schurrle had a free-kick tipped on to the bar by Lonergan as Chelsea bombarded the visiting goal.
Schurrle, again, went close, before Chelsea took the lead from a corner, when Cahill’s header was blocked and Remy headed the ball back into the six-yard box, where Zouma pounced.
Schurrle found the top tier of the Shed End from Remy’s cross and Salah curled wide from Oscar’s pass before Chelsea were made to pay for their lack of precision.
Troy Deeney’s deep free-kick from the right found Mills on the edge of the hosts’ box.
Mourinho would have been concerned to see a journeyman defender at his ninth club climb highest to convert from 16 yards, the ball glancing off the post and in.
Schurrle again fired off target, Nathan Ake was denied from 25 yards by Lonergan and, after the restart, Oscar had a header saved.
Even the less than prolific John Obi Mikel tried his luck, shooting straight at the goalkeeper, before Lonergan was beaten for a second time.
A direct Remy run ended with a blocked shot, but the rebound fell to Oscar, who emphatically drilled in with the Bolton defence backing off.
Schurrle headed over and Oscar curled a free-kick narrowly over before Remy was denied by Lonergan after neat build-up play by Salah and Schurrle, who then again curled wide.
The German forward fired a free-kick off target after Didier Drogba’s introduction.
Eden Hazard was introduced 11 minutes from time in a further indication that Mourinho did not want extra-time and of the Portuguese’s concern at his side’s wasteful evening.
Schurrle came closest when he turned Dean Moxey inside and out before firing a shot which Lonergan claimed, but only after palming it on to the post.
Cech was called upon to save from Bolton substitute Lee Chung-yong five minutes from time before Drogba cleared from a corner as Wanderers pressed to force extra-time, but, to the relief of much of Stamford Bridge, the hosts held on.