For Bury, it appears the whistle has already sounded; the English Football League expelled the club late on Tuesday.
For Bolton, they had 14 days to sort out a buyout or face a similar fate.
The clubs - both founder members of the Football League - had been given a 5pm Tuesday deadline to clinch rescue deals.
Bolton administrator Paul Appleton says the future of the club "is still in doubt" but hoped there would be a "positive outcome" before the deadline.
A deal to sell the Trotters to preferred bidders Football Ventures collapsed on Saturday morning - despite being virtually agreed hours earlier - and Appleton had warned on Monday that he would start closing the club down on Wednesday.
It's not clear what will happen now that deadline has gone, but Mr Appleton had warned assets will start to be sold off on Wednesday, with the likelihood 150-plus jobs will be lost.
Neighbours Bury also faced a 5pm deadline - and it's now emerged potential new owners C&N Sporting Risk have pulled out of a deal to buy the stricken club.
Owner Steve Dale revealed on Friday, just two hours before another deadline, that he had "sold" the club but Bury's future is now back in the balance.
They had been offered a lifeline by the EFL in terms of an extension should they be able to prove a deal is all but done.
How did we get to this - and what happens next?
The bottom line is: money - or lack of it.
Gerald Krasner, partner at insolvency specialists Begbies Traynor, produced its annual Football Distress Report in May that said six Football League clubs were in dire straits - though they were not identified.
He said the situation for Bolton Wanderers was particularly acute, less so for Bury.
"Someone has lost the plot at Bolton, that's for sure," he said.
"Someone has got to blink, it's a bit of poker playing, brinkmanship.
"Football does something to business people - they lose their heads, as well as their shirts.
"There's a saying about if you want to make a small fortune out of football, start with a big one and work your way down."
Krasner is a former chairman of Leeds United who oversaw a period in the mid-2000s when the Yorkshire club was also in financial trouble.
He set about cutting debts and sold the club to former Chelsea owner Ken Bates.
He was also involved as an administrator in brokering the rescue of AFC Bournemouth in 2008.
But, at Bolton Wanderers, it is rival, competing concerns - the owner, debtors, the administrator, potential buyer - that appear to be hampering chances of survival.
At Bury, said Krasner, it's different. "The Football League appears to be bending over to help them.
"I believe they can make a deal."
Even if both do survive, Krasner believes they will not be the last crisis clubs.
He says: "We are just waiting for the next one. I would think that there will be another club (in a similar situation) before the end of the season."
Consultants Deloitte also produce an annual report into the state of football finances.
Its latest - examining the 2017/18 season - shows how revenues in the lower leagues (Leagues 1 and 2) are just about keeping ahead of wages, across the board.
But, Deloitte revealed, 12 clubs in the Championship had a wages spend greater than total revenue in 2017/18, with three nearing a wages/revenue ratio of 200% as the lure of Premier League riches stretches finances.
Pre-tax losses among the 17 consistent League 1 clubs also rose, more than doubling to £37m.
What does the Bolton owner say?
Bolton owner Ken Anderson has rejected suggestions he is to blame.
"I have had no contact with any of the consortium, the Eddie Davies Trust (set up by the former owner) or Keir Gordon (lawyer for the Trust) since the appointment of the administrators and was not involved in any of the discussions or delays over the last few months," he told Sky Sports News.
"The lengthy delays are entirely due to the discussions and negotiations between the consortium, Trust, Michael James, Administrators and Keir Gordon.
"As l understand it, Keir Gordon and the Eddie Davies Trust and my lawyers were unable to reach an agreement on Saturday.
"Obviously, l have to be guided by my lawyers and QC advice and it now rests with Keir Gordon and the Trust to respond to my lawyers."
And, what about Bury?
Before the latest twist, former Bury director Joy Hart said she believed the club's battle to preserve their English Football League status was "looking fairly positive".
She told BBC Radio Manchester: "The emotion is still raw. Your stomach turns over every morning that you wake up.
"We hope the EFL let us live for another 134 years. It's very emotional."