Buoyed by their surprise victory over leaders Cardiff last week, Posh raced into a two-goal lead inside six minutes thanks to Lee Tomlin and Dwight Gayle.
Two Keith Andrews penalties, either side of George Thorne's drive, kept things interesting before United defenders Mark Little and Gabriel Zakuani looked to have made the points safe. But there was a final twist as Wanderers substitutes Benik Afobe and Martin Petrov netted inside the final six minutes.
A cross-field ball from George Boyd in the second minute skidded through Bolton centre-back Zat Knight on the greasy surface, allowing Tomlin to race clear before planting a low shot past Adam Bogdan.
Wanderers goalkeeper Bogdan made a magnificent reflex save to stop Tomlin doubling his tally moments later but the Hungary international could do nothing when Sam Ricketts failed to clear Tommy Rowe's cross and Gayle thrashed home on the half-volley - his fifth goal in four games.
Boyd passed up the opportunity to add a third, shooting wide at the end of a mazy run, before Bolton were handed a lifeline in first half stoppage time when Zakuani held down Ricketts. Andrews held his nerve to beat Posh goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik - a virtual spectator for the opening 45 minutes.
But haphazard defending undid Bolton at the start of the second half, as it had in the first, and after they failed to clear in the 47th minute Thorne swept home from the edge of the area.
A bustling run from Arsenal loanee Afobe was then ended illegally in the area by Joe Newell and once more Andrews did the honours.
Posh's two-goal cushion was restored for a third time with 21 minutes to go when Little emphatically drove into the top corner at the back post before Zakuani's far-post header to convert Tomlin's right wing corner appeared to have sealed it.
But Afobe and Petrov had other ideas. The former converted his team-mates' 84th minute corner from close range and when Petrov emphatically crashed into the top corner on the angle three minutes later Bolton had got to within touching distance of a point they scarcely deserved.