A young Fleetwood Town side couldn’t hold back the floodgates, two second half goals consigning them to defeat on the road at Ashton Gate.
Town, with Tyler Forbes standing in at full back and Nick Haughton making his first start in midfield, piled pressure onto the hosts but couldn’t find a way through.
Haughton was a real livewire in a bright opening for the visitors, one of a number of Fleetwood men to test Frank Fielding in the Bristol goa.
Jamie Proctor and Gareth Evans also forced saves from the former Blackburn Rovers man.
Had Town found a way to get their noses ahead the story might have been different.
As it was, with City gradually fighting back, the script could easily have been written.
The danger before the break came from set pieces, Wade Elliott’s delivery and Aden Flint’s aerial presence causing big problems for Town.
The opener, just after the break, did come from a dead ball but neither danger man was involved.
Luke Ayling’s low ball couldn’t be swept clear, Matt Smith with a stumbling finish to hand the Robins a crucial advantage.
It was one they were keen not to surrender, closing down the space, forcing Town deep and neutralising Haughton’s threat.
The second was undeserved, Fleetwood looking for a last ditch leveller, Haughton trying to skip past Luke Freeman but finding his pocket picked.
City broke and Town had no answer, Emmanuel Thomas with time to take a touch before hammering the final nail into the Fleetwood coffin.
Boss Graham Alexander was left furious with the match officials, in particular referee Gavin Ward, who he accused of bowing to pressure from the home support.
I’m not scratching my head, I know the reasons we got beaten,” said Alexander.
“You could read it at the end of the first half.
“I spoke to the fourth about the pressure that would come on the referee in the second half and asked if he could ignore the bating he got as he came off at half time.
“He came out second half, it’s free kick after free kick and it’s won them the game.
“I’m not scratching my head, it’s plain and clear.”