The Reds had the game wrapped up within 16 minutes, capitalising on Wanderers keeper Ben Amos' 12th-minute red card by scoring the subsequent penalty through Nelson Oliveria.
Oliver Burke added a second four minutes later and Man of the Match Jamie Ward put the icing on the cake with an 83rd-minute strike.
Dougie Freedman made three changes to the side that started Tuesday night's 1-1 draw against Birmingham. In came Ward, Burke and Gary Gardner, with Chris O'Grady and Ryan Mendes dropping to the bench. David Vaughan began a three-match suspension after his dismissal against the Blues.
Tyler Walker and Chris Cohen were named among Forest's substitutes, while Liam Trotter started for Bolton after recently completing a loan spell at The City Ground.
It only took 12 minutes for the game to dramatically swing in Forest's favour. Ben Osborn intercepted an attempted pass and with his first touch sent the ball forward. Ward got to it first, nodding it beyond the last man and scampering through one-on-one with Amos. He took a heavy touch but had the pace to nudge the ball past the sprawling Amos, who felled him in the area and was shown a red card. Reserve keeper Paul Rachubka took to the field in place of unfortunate midfielder Josh Vela but there was nothing he could do to stop Oliveira's penalty, which was perfectly placed into the bottom-left corner.
Four minutes later it was 2-0. Ward was heavily involved once again, showing excellent feet to buy himself some space for a cross. He hung the ball up in the middle, allowing Burke the chance to power up his legs and outleap a Bolton defender to head it beyond Rachubka.
Bolton responded admirably, enjoying a neat spell of possession before Wellington Silva worked himself a shooting opportunity on the edge of Forest's area. He could only fire the ball over, however, and Forest were to see out the rest of the half comfortably.
Ward nearly had another assist to his name three minutes before the break, bursting away down the left before cutting the ball back for the onrushing Osborn in the area. Osborn took his shot first time, dragging the ball across goal and a yard wide of the post.
It was time for Ward to have an opportunity of his own as the game entered its 45th minute. Forest countered and Ward peeled away towards the right-hand side of the area. Osborn picked Ward out beautifully and he showed tremendous technique to volley the ball goalwards. Rachubka did well to push it away for a corner.
Gardner's subsequent delivery was dealt with but Ward picked up the scraps 35 yards out. With plenty of time on his hands the shot was certainly on, and he came within inches of claiming the goal he deserved as his dipping effort bounced off the bar on its way behind.
There was still time for Gardner to extend The Reds' lead before the break - he also tried his luck from range but Rachubka was able to make a comfortable save.
Forest came out for the second half unchanged and Ward had another chance to add his name to the scoresheet eight minutes after the restart. Neat interplay with Osborn saw him receive the ball eight yards from goal but he could only roll it wide of the far post.
Bottom-of-the-league Bolton were finding it almost impossible to offer any threat, while at the other end Ward's goal quest went on. Lichaj picked the forward out with a cross from the right and his header looped on to the roof of the net.
Freedman made his first change on 70 minutes, sending on Walker in place of Oliveira.
Ward was left frustrated yet again as the game entered its final stages. He took the ball past a number of Bolton players before striking the ball low towards the corner. Rachubka got down well to tip it wide. A chance presented itself for Gardner from the consequent corner but he saw his header blocked on the line.
On 83 minutes the moment finally came for Ward after he was released by Osborn down the left. Reaching the area and using the unmarked Walker as a decoy, Ward worked the ball on to his left foot and beat Rachubka for power. It crashed off the underside of the bar and over the line.
Lone front man Gary Madine had been forced to feed off the measliest of scraps all afternoon but offered Bolton's only notable shot on target shortly after his side went 3-0 down, turning on the edge of the area and firing the ball straight at Dorus de Vries.
Cohen and Mendes replaced Tesche and Burke as the clock ticked down but there was to be no further action as Forest made it 11 games unbeaten.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills (c), Jokic, Ward, Gardner, Tesche (Cohen 86'), Osborn, O.Burke (Mendes 90'), Oliveira (Walker 70')
Subs not used: Evtimov, Wilson, Hobbs, O'Grady
Goals: Oliveira 12', O.Burke 16', Ward 83'
Amos, Holding, Dervite, Wheater (Danns 63'), Moxey, Vela (Rachubka 12'), Trotter, Pratley (c), Wellington (Woolery 88'), Feeney, Madine
Subs not used: Spearing, Davies, Casado, Dobbie
Booking: Moxey 58'
Sent off: Amos 12'
Attendance: 18,465 (584 away)
Referee: Eddie Ilderton