Liam Feeney’s first goals since August 2013 helped Bolton boss Neil Lennon secure a second straight home win and continued Cardiff’s travelling troubles.
Winger Feeney scored his first two Wanderers goals in the opening 36 minutes, while Matt Mills added a third in the second period, as Lennon maintained a 100 per cent record at Macron Stadium since assuming the helm last month.
All the talk in the build up had been about a possible Thai takeover of Bolton, with chairman Phil Gartside having visited Thailand to discuss possible investment from Asia this week.
Their opponents boast an owner from that very continent but Vincent Tan would have been once again unhappy at the Bluebirds’ record on the road.
Russell Slade has carried on a worrying trend from his predecessors and Cardiff’s latest defeat leaves them with just one win in 24 away league games.
Lennon had shown his first signs of unhappiness after the loss to Norwich on Friday and showed a bold hand in the team-sheet, which had skipper Jay Spearing and last season’s top scorer Jermaine Beckford demoted to the bench.
Yet just nine minutes into the contest the hosts were ahead.
Darren Pratley embarked on a drifting cross-field run and although he neglected to feed Feeney, Lee Chung-yong’s first-time cross found the winger inside the area and he swept beyond David Marshall for the opening goal.
Wanderers continued to probe in the immediate aftermath of Feeney’s strike as Pratley tested Marshall and captain-for-the-night Mills nodded over.
The visitors were scarcely threatening themselves, Peter Whittingham’s deflected effort flying narrowly wide, while at the other end Mills caused problems again at a corner, this time Craig Noone stabbing his try off the line.
Federico Macheda almost reached a Noone cross ahead of Bolton goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, but the hosts would secure a two-goal cushion nine minutes before the break as Feeney added another.
Lee, Mark Davies and Tim Ream were all involved in a fine move down the left, with the former keeping the attack alive to allow Pratley to pick out Feeney at the back post and the 27-year-old struck his shot into the ground and over Marshall.
Adam Le Fondre fired at Lonergan just before the interval, with Macheda doing likewise early in the second period as the Bluebirds began to show some life.
John Brayford and Macheda were wasteful with further efforts, though, while Bolton’s Feeney swiped at his hat-trick chance from Pratley’s pull across.
The wide-man had been pushed up front and the milestone beckoned again on a breakaway attack, however he blazed this chance over with a little over 20 minutes remaining.
Feeney was then substituted for Max Clayton as Lennon continued to show attacking intent, and that was rewarded with a third goal 14 minutes from time.
From the left channel Clayton steered a pass into Mills’ path and even though the centre-back shanked his chance into the ground, it dribbled into the far corner of the net.
Cardiff’s frustration was growing and Ravel Morrison clashed with Pratley on the floor, the former appearing to kick out. A lengthy discussion between the officials followed but the end result was only a yellow card for both.
Brighton’s win over Wigan meant Bolton remain in the relegation zone but this result, over a side in the top flight last term, was easily the best of Lennon’s short rein.