If Steve Lomas' 44th minute goal had decided this one-sided match, Wanderers would have been flattered by the result. As it was, they survived long periods of sustained Hammers pressure, mustered only two decent shots all game and scored with the second - a Youri Djorkaeff freekick that deflected past David James in the 67th minute.
Wanderers were not going to leave Upton Park with an undeserved point, though, because Ian Pearce - whose recent late goal earned a draw at Tottenham - popped up again with just two minutes to go to head home Michael Carrick's corner.
James had earlier produced an international class save from a well struck 25-yarder by substitute Dean Holdsworth, which sparked a chorus of "England, England's Number One" from the crowd behind him in the Bobby Moore Stand.
Otherwise, the World Cup keeper had little else to do as Hammers dominated from midway through a first half that didn't come to life until Carrick ended a fine, flowing move in the 23rd minute with a rasping shot that Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen just managed to push round his near post.
Fredi Kanoute then tested the Finn with a freekick that dipped under the crossbar, while Christian Dailly, Trevor Sinclair and Kanoute - who had the easiest chance of the three - all saw headers drift wide.
Jermain Defoe was the busiest striker in the first half and should have got his reward when he received Carrick's pass to feet and turned his marker in the box, but scuffed his shot low and wide from 12 yards out.
It was only a matter of time, though, before Hammers made their superiority count. Defoe, cutting inside from the left, cracked a right-foot shot that Jaaskelainen could only parry and there was Lomas, eight yards out, to steer the rebound into the net with a sidefoot volley - his fourth goal in 14 league starts.
In the second half, Kanoute caused Bolton the biggest problems, forcing a full stretch save from Jaaskelainen and, later, crashing a shot against the underside of the bar when it seemed certain West Ham's leading league scorer would extend his tally to 12 goals.
In between, Joe Cole had rocked the post with a thunderous shot from the right-hand edge of the box and no one shone brighter in the afternoon sunshine than the youngster with a World Cup on the horizon. Not that Cole was looking to wrap himself in cotton wool in readiness for the Far East trip. He started on the right of midfield but was effectively everywhere - tackling, chasing and, of course, providing the sublime touches to illuminate any game.
And you would never have guessed that Sinclair was bearing the burden of World Cup rejection as he teased and tormented Wanderers defence - initially from the left flank and, later, from the right after switching wings with Cole.
As it turned out, a point would have been sufficient for West Ham to finish above both Aston Villa and Spurs, but Pearce put the gloss on a happy day for the vast majority of the 35,546 present with his late headed winner that signalled an East End knees-up.
There was even time for John Moncur to make what could be his last appearance as Glenn Roeder brought on him and Richard Garcia with two minutes injury-time signalled. But, sadly, there was no swansong for Steve Potts, well warmed up on the subs' bench and itching to make his 400th league appearance for his only club.
With the Bobby Moore Stand prompting Roeder with a chant of "We want Pottsy on the pitch", time ran out and the loyal, long-serving defender can now only hope for the offer of a new one-year contract and thus the chance to reach this milestone next season.
Not that the likeable Potts will complain. Like the rest of the squad, he stayed behind on the pitch afterwards to receive the cheers of the fans who, seven months ago, after embarrassing defeats at Everton and Blackburn Rovers, could not have dreamed of a top seven finish in Roeder's first season of top flight management.
2 - Tofting's ambitious 30-yarder flies high over the bar.
3 - Kanoute collects a Winterburn throw on the left and turns well before running at the Bolton defence, but the ball escapes his control and rolls out for a goal-kick as he advances into the penalty area.
7 - Bobic finds space on the right hand side of the area but fires his low shot straight at James.
15 - Defoe has a decent shout for a penalty turned down as he latches on to Carrick's long pass and muscles pass Bergsson before appearing to be tugged down by the Icelandic defender. Referee Dean waves play on.
19 - Cole booked for kicking the ball away.
23 - A fantastic flowing move sees Cole switch the play to Sinclair, who finds the overlapping Winterburn. His short pass reaches Carrick, who curls in a superb effort that Jaaskelainen tips round the post.
24 - Sinclair's magnificent run and pass looks to have set Kanoute away, but a late flag penalises the Frenchman for offside.
29 - Dailly's powerful header from Carrick's corner flies just wide of the post.
30 - Djorkaeff's inswinging free-kick appears to be heading goalwards until an outstretched boot in the six yard box diverts the ball over for a corner.
31 - Hammers come close again, as Carrick's chip into the box is collected by Defoe, who turns superbly but fires his left foot shot just wide from 12 yards out.
34 - Farrelly booked for kicking the ball away.
37 - Sinclair's lofted cross from the left is met by Kanoute, but the Frenchman's header drops wide of the post again.
44 - GOAL! Hammers takes the lead on the stroke of half-time, as Sinclair leads a breakaway attack and finds Defoe on the left hand side of the penalty area. The young striker cuts inside before curling a magnificent shot that is parried out by Jaaskelainen to the six yard box, where Lomas is waiting to volley home his fourth goal in nine games! West Ham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 0.
Added time: 2 minutes.
Half-time: West Ham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 0.
46 - Double substitution for Bolton, Nolan replaces Tofting and Holdsworth replaces Ricketts.
50 - Repka booked for dissent.
54 - Defoe manages to keep Cole's pass in play on the right wing and crosses low for Kanoute, who turns his marker and fires in a shot that is well saved by Jaaskelainen.
55 - Sinclair's crossfield pass finds Cole, who beats Charlton before unleashing a shot that crashes off the post and is cleared to safety by a Bolton defender.
56 - Another piece of Cole trickery bamboozles three defenders on the edge of the area, and the young England star skips to the byline before pulling back a cross that is cleared for a corner.
59 - Holdsworth's long-range effort is magnificently tipped over by James.
60 - Substitution for Bolton, Smith replaces Konstantinidis.
64 - Sinclair's quick free-kick finds Kanoute, whose first time effort is blocked by Jaaskelainen. The Frenchman gets a toe to the rebound but it crashes against the bar and bounces down on the goalline. It isn't third time lucky, though, as Kanoute then heads the rising ball over from three yards out!
67 - GOAL. Bolton grab an equaliser against the run of play, as Djorkaeff's free-kick from 25 yards out takes a deflection off the wall and wrong-foots James, who can only help the ball into the net as he scrambles across his line. West Ham United 1 Bolton Wanderers 1.
71 - Cole's corner from the right is headed over by the unmarked Kanoute.
75 - Cole plays a delightful one-two with Kanoute, but his first league goal of the season deserts him again as his shot is charged down by a defender.
83 - Lomas' clever pass releases Sinclair, who cuts the ball back to Kanoute, but the Frenchman misses his kick completely under pressure from Bergsson.
89 - GOAL! The Hammers finally get the breakthrough they deserve as Carrick's corner is met by Pearce, who powers his header into the roof of the net from six yards out. for the goal that could secure seventh place in the Premiership for the Hammers. West Ham United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1.
Added time: 2 minutes.
90 - Double substitution for West Ham, Garcia replaces Kanoute, and Moncur replaces Carrick.
90 - Moncur collects the ball on the edge of the area and almost sends Upton Park into ecstasy with a chip that just clears the crossbar.
Full-time: West Ham United 2 Bolton Wanderers 1.