Premier League - Sunderland beat Bolton at death
Boudewijn Zenden slotted home in first-half added time to give the Sunderland the lead at the break, but the visitors eventually cracked when Bolton substitutes Rodrigo and Ivan Klasnic combined with the Croatian's header giving the hosts the leveller.
Kevin Davies thought he had given Bolton victory but was denied by an amazing headed clearance by Phil Bardsley and just seconds later Sulley Muntari's shot was diverted into his own net by Knight to guarantee Premier League football next season at The Stadium of Light.
With Owen Coyle’s Trotters sitting pretty in eighth spot in the Premier League before kick off, the hosts could be forgiven for having one eye on the beach as they took to the pitch.
In contrast, Steve Bruce’s Sunderland came into the match with just one win in 11 and although they were a comfortable six points ahead of the drop-zone with Wolves and West Ham to play, the uncomfortable maths suggested a catastrophic chain of events could still relegate the Wearsiders.
A lengthy injury list has added to Bruce’s problems and but it was Sunderland who had the first real sight of goal when Zenden's free-kick flew high and wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen's goal.
The unmarked Bardsley wasted a golden opportunity for the visitors when he inexplicably headed wide from a matter of yards just before the midway point in the first half and he was almost made to pay when the swivelling Danny Sturridge's goal-bound strike was blocked by John Mensah.
As the game went end-to-end, Jack Colback's lofted pass found Zenden in the box, only for the Dutchman to scuff his shot.
Sturridge again showed his influence to the Trotters with a snapshot that finished wide, but when he curled an effort from the edge of the box, Bardsley's intervention took it beyond the stranded Mignolet to cannon back off the bar.
Sturridge was once more on hand to almost benefit after Mignolet spilled Taylor's rasping drive and was just denied by Anton Ferdinand and Sunderland made the breakthrough within seconds.
From the counter, Stephane Sessegnon played a delightful through-ball for Zenden and as the flag stayed down, Zenden dummied Jaaskelainen before slotting home to give the Black Cats the lead at the break.
Sunderland started the half as they ended the first as Sessegnon's run and shot forced Jaaskelainen into a full-length save within seconds of the restart, but Bolton came within inches of levelling when Sturridge rolled the ball inches wide of Mignolet's post .
Taylor was next to try his luck with a shot from a narrow angle that flew well over Mignolet's bar and when Mignolet palmed out Davies's clever chip to the far post, Sturridge's volley was deflected wide.
Coyle brought on Klasnic and Rodrigo in a bid to get something from the match and it almost proved a masterstroke when the Spaniard pulled a superb save out of Mignolet with 10 minutes left.
On 87 minutes, Rodrigo delivered a perfect cross to the Sunderland far post and Klasnic was on hand to nod the ball home past the despairing Mignolet.
The Trotters thought they had won the game when Bardsley's poor defensive header handed the ball to Rodrigo.
The Spaniard lashed the ball across the box and Davies' volley was all set to bulge the net only for the Sunderland man to redeem himself with an instinctive header over his own bar.
And the Trotters were immediately caught on the hop as the ever-lively Sessegon played the ball into the path of Muntari.
His shot squirmed beneath Jaaskelainen and the luckless lunging Knight could only divert the ball into his own net.
It was hard on Bolton who were more than good value for at least a point, but the Wearsiders’ victory confirms their Premier League status with two games to spare, although it is likely that Bruce and the Sunderland fans will be glad to put this season well behind them.