City could not find a way back into the match to claim something from Saturday's trip to Bolton Wanderers, as the in-form hosts claimed a fourth straight win in Sky Bet League One.
After an even opening 10 minutes, the Imps mounted their first real attack of the game when Paudie O’Connor played a ball over the top to Jordon Garrick whose cross towards the near post caused trouble for the hosts who had to knock the ball behind for a corner.
Bolton’s first shot on target came in the 19th minute as Kieran Lee picked out the run of Elias Kachunga who cut back onto his right inside the six-yard area before seeing his shot towards the bottom left corner saved by Carl Rushworth.
As the half went on both teams struggled to break each other down, with a few blocked crosses from Bolton the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock.
Shortly before the break, the hosts were awarded a penalty when Kachunga was brought down after he wriggled away from Adam Jackson inside the area after being played through on goal.
Dion Charles took the responsibility for the spot kick and rolled it low past Rushworth’s left to give his side the lead before the break.
Ian Evatt’s side went close to doubling their lead as the fourth official signalled two minutes of added time when Ricardo Almeida Santos rose highest to head Jack Iredale’s corner goalwards, but Rushworth was there to catch the effort.
Bolton started the second half similarly to how they finished the first as a dangerous cross from the left fell to an unmarked Kachunga right in front of goal who couldn’t quite poke the ball home.
The pressure from Bolton kept coming in flurries as Conor Bradley worked the ball down to Gethin Jones on the right whose cross into the centre for Kieran Lee was quickly dealt with by the City defence.
Mark Kennedy’s side could have equalised in the 68th minute after Roughan’s deep inswinging corner found the head of Paudie O’Connor whose header flew just over the crossbar to let the hosts off the hook.
On his first competitive appearance for the Imps, Danny Mandroiu looked to bring his side level in the 77th minute when he managed to get away from Thomason just inside the area to fizz a low shot across goal into the Bolton stopper’s grasp.
Two substitutes combined for Bolton six minutes before time to secure the three points for the hosts as Dapo Afolayan threaded Jon Dadi Bodvarsson inside the box to slot low past Rushworth and seal the victory.
City had the last chance to strike, with Virtue drawing a fantastic save from Trafford after collecting Sanders’ pass.
Bolton: James Trafford, Gethin Jones, MJ Williams, Ricardo Almeida Santos ©, George Johnston, Dion Charles (Dapo Afolayan, Jack Iredale, Kieran Lee (Kyle Dempsey 68’), Conor Bradley, Elias Kachunga (Jon Dadi Bodvarsson 73’), George Thomason. Subs (not used): Kieran Sadlier, Amadou Bakayoko, Will Aimson, Aaron Morley, .
Goals: Charles (40’ pen) Bodvarsson (84’).
City: Carl Rushworth, Regan Poole ©, Adam Jackson, Jordon Garrick (Danny Mandroui 65’), Paudie O’Connor, Ben House (Tashan Oakley-Boothe 78’), Lasse Sorensen (Max Sanders 65’), TJ Eyoma, Sean Roughan, Matty Virtue, Jack Diamond. Subs (not used): Jordan Wright, Charles Vernam, Jamie Robson, Oisin Gallagher.
Referee: Neil Hair.
Attendance: 17,263 (782 away).