A ninth successive home win would have capped a remarkable turnaround for a team placed 20th at the start of February and one point looked like being enough until Anthony Knockaert gave Leicester a last-gasp 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest to secure sixth place for the Foxes.
Blackpool attacked with a verve rarely seen since their stint as early season pace-setters and fine goals from Matt Phillips and Ludo Sylvestre had them 2-0 up after 35 minutes. That lead appeared safe as the interval approached but Chris Eagles and recalled striker Craig Davies were on hand to haul Wanderers level.
Darren Pratley and Lee Chung-Yong passed up chances to give Bolton the win they ultimately needed - misses they were left to rue after Knockaert's late intervention.
Phillips ensured Blackpool started on the front foot - firing a speculative effort into the side-netting, forcing Whites full-back Marcos Alonso to scramble behind and dragging wide after bursting clear all inside the first four minutes.
But Blackpool made the breakthrough in stunning fashion after 21 breathless minutes - Phillips emerging from slick one-touch interplay involving Tom Ince and Gary Taylor-Fletcher to lash left-footed into the top corner.
The hosts soon had a mountain to climb after Paul Ince's side once more benefited from static defending with aplomb - Neal Eardley's lofted cross to the edge of the area was crisply volleyed home as Sylvestre claimed a fourth goal in six matches.
In an attempt to turn things around, Freedman sent on striker Marvin Sordell in place of Robert Hall eight minutes before the break and his team unleashed a staggering turnaround in injury time.
Two of the outstanding performers in Bolton's late-season rally combined to reduce the arrears as Eagles arched an excellent side-footed finish into the top corner from 18 yards after Alonso raided down the left.
In the last act of the half, Davies' hopeful strike from distance took a wicked deflection off Stephen Crainey to leave Gilks with no chance and send the Reebok Stadium into raptures. Pratley and Lee missed chances for Bolton before worse news arrived from the City Ground.