Shaun Miller’s goal deep into injury-time broke Barrow hearts as The Bluebirds were beaten in the cruellest of circumstances on their first-ever league visit to Bolton Wanderers.
The Bluebirds were organised and committed from the first whistle at The University of Bolton Stadium and rarely allowed their hosts to create too much in the way of clear cut opportunities, while also looking a threat on the break at times.
They looked well placed to pick up a richly deserved point on their travels only for substitute Shaun Miller to capitalise on a rare moment of space to rifle home the only goal right at the death.
Kelly made one change to his starting line-up as Bobby Thomas came in at the back to replace Tom Davies, while Josh Kay was on the bench after shaking off the hamstring trouble which kept him out of the midweek win at Oldham.
The game began at a high tempo with both teams keen to knock the ball around but also work hard to regain possession which made for an entertaining encounter.
Chances were at a premium, but Luke James saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages, making some intelligent runs and giving the Wanderers backline something to think about.
The Bluebirds settled well and were on top for a period just after the quarter-hour mark, making inroad particularly down the right wing but without bringing home keeper Matt Gilks in to action.
The hosts then responded with a couple of corners which Barrow defended solidly, before Declan John swung a ball in from the left which Eoin Doyle headed wide of the far post.
Wanderers began to grow in authority and Lloyd Isgrove whipped a testing cross in to the front post which was again well defended by Barrow, while at the other end Scott Quigley fired over with an ambitious effort from long range on the right.
Joel Dixon was called upon to make a solid save seven minutes before the break when The Trotters worked the ball in to Oladapo Afolayan on the edge of the box and he cleverly got a yard to shoot but the Bluebirds keeper got down well to hold the drive.
The biggest chance of the first period then fell to Barrow. Quigley did superbly to tease his way past a defender into the right of the box and he fed a low ball across into the path of the arriving Jason Taylor who directed a side-foot effort on target only for Gilks to claw it away excellently.
Bolton responded with a swift counter-attack which freed the dangerous Antoni Sarcevic on the right of the area, but his deep cross was fingertipped away by Dixon and then Neal Eardley pounced on the loose ball to clear before Doyle could react.
Barrow began the second half in confident fashion and almost stole in front three minutes when they picked Bolton off on a break led by Quigley. He found Brough charging beyond him but the defender was dispossessed as he attempted to cut back inside on his left foot and the hosts survived.
Wanderers immediately looked to get on the front foot themselves and a good move saw Kieran Lee fed in on the right side of the box but his powerful shot was blocked.
The home side got even closer ten minutes after the restart when a cross from the right was glanced away by Bobby Thomas but landed at the feet of Sarcevic at the far post only for his powerful volley to be well dealt with by Dixon.
Bolton continued the carry the greater threat as the half wore on but Barrow were working tremendously hard to keep them at bay; Doyle tried his luck at the end of a decent move but his shot was easily fielded by Dixon.
Wanderers boss Ian Evatt spun the dice with a double change as Arthur Gnahoua and Nathan Delfouneso were introduced with 20 minutes left and the latter could have made an impact five minutes later after turning in the area, but his shot was into the midriff of Dixon.
Barrow caught Bolton out with a quickly taken free kick and it was played into the path of Quigley on the right side of the area, but he could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.
There might have been late thrills for the visitors had appeals for a penalty proved fruitful for Barrow after substitute Jamie Devitt appeared to be tripped in the area but the officials were uninterested.
However, the drama unfolded at the other end three minutes in to injury time as Barrow failed to clear their lines and Miller rifled home the decisive goal from close range.
Full Time: Bolton Wanderers 1 Barrow 0
Bolton Wanderers: Gilks, Jones, Williams, Almeida Santos, Doyle (Miller 81), Sarcevic, Isgrove (Delfouneso 70), Baptiste, John, Lee, Afolayan (Gnahoua 70).
Subs not used: Tutte, Thomason, Elbouzedi, Jackson.
Barrow: Dixon, Barry, Eardley, J Jones, Thomas, Brough, Ntlhe (Kay 72), J Taylor, Banks (Devitt 78), Quigley, James.
Subs not used: Lillis, Goodridge, Bramall, Sea.
Booked: Brough, Dixon.
Referee: Alan Young
Attendance: Behind Closed Doors