Aston Villa have seen their hopes of gaining automatic promotion from the Championship take another blow courtesy of a 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium this evening.
Steve Bruce's side - who have now lost back-to-back matches for the first time since August following their midweek loss at home to Queens Park Rangers - fell victim to Adam Le Fondre's first-half strike to leave them still seven points off second-placed Cardiff City, who are in action against Derby County on Sunday.
Bolton, meanwhile, climb up to 19th and now have a six-point cushion over the relegation zone having won for the first time in their last five outings.
The opening goal arrived after 19 minutes when Sammy Ameobi's corner was flicked on at the near post by Darren Pratley, taking it into the path of Le Fondre who was left with a simple tap-in from close range.
Bolton hit straight back, though, and just a minute later they perhaps should have doubled the advantage when Josh Vela was released through on goal, but Johnstone came out on top when one on one and Le Fondre's follow-up effort was blocked.
Johnstone was the busier of the two keepers as Bolton continued to push forward in search of a rare victory, and Ameobi came close again before half time when his free kick was pushed away by the Manchester United loanee.
The hosts continued to do their best to warm up the supporters in attendance at a snowy Macron Stadium after the restart too, and Le Fondre perhaps should have doubled his personal tally shortly after the hour mark when he latched on to a through-ball but fired his volley narrowly wide of the target.
Will Buckley was the next to threaten a second for the home side, although they were almost made to rue their missed opportunities 13 minutes from time when Scott Hogan looked certain to have levelled things up, only for Flanagan to produce a fine goal-line clearance.
The visitors could not find an equaliser in the closing stages as Bolton hung on for a valuable victory, whereas Villa's hopes of a top-two finish now look to be in tatters with only eight games of the season remaining.
BOLTON (4-2-3-1): Alnwick; Flanagan, Burke, Beevers, Taylor; Henry, Osede, Ameobi, Pratley (Vela, 27'), Buckley (Robinson, 81'); Le Fondre
ASTON VILLA (4-5-1): Johnstone; El Mohamady, Chester, Terry, Bree; Snodgrass (Davis, 82'), Hourihane (Hepburn-Murphy, 54'), Bjarnason, Grealish, Adomah (Hogan, 72'); Grabban body check tags ::