Arnar Gunnlaugsson fired Bolton ahead in the fifth minute with a cool finish after Ricardo Gardner's cross had picked him out at the near post. But Ade Akinbiyi grabbed a 28th-minute equaliser to claim his 10th goal of the season, and in first half injury-time Bell scored what turned out to be the winner from the spot.
Akinbiyi stabbed home the equaliser after his initial header from Brian Tinnion's corner had been blocked. And Bell played his part in winning the penalty, his superb run ending with a far-post cross that saw Mike Whitlow push the Bristol City striker Soren Andersen in the back. Bell smashed home the spot-kick and City had only their third League win in 16 attempts.
Both sides felt they should have had second-half penalties. First, Gunnlaugsson went down in City's box under a challenge from Rob Edwards and was clearly furious when the referee, Mark Halsey, waved play on. City were equally distressed about Andersen's claim to a spot-kick soon afterwards. The Danish forward looked certain to score as he went down after rounding the goalkeeper Keith Branagan, but the referee was unimpressed. It seemed Halsey would either have to book Andersen for diving or point to the spot, but he did neither.
Bolton were not helped by the early loss of Gardner and Per Frandsen through injury. Frandsen was clearly dazed after an aerial collision with the outstanding Edwards.
But the visitors will reflect on two good second-half chances wasted by the substitute Dean Holdsworth, and two more that Neil Cox allowed to go begging. At the other end, Branagan saved well from Edwards and a Bell free-kick.
Bristol City: Welch, Murray, Bell, Hutchings, Watts, Carey, Goodridge, Edwards, Akinbiyi ( Zwijnenberg, 88), Andersen (Thorpe, 78), Tinnion. Substitute not used: Doherty.
Bolton Wanderers: Branagan, Cox, Whitlow, Todd, Fish, Jensen, Johansen, Frandsen (Taylor, 25), Blake, Gardner (Holdsworth, 15), Gunnlaugsson. Substitute not used: Phillips.
Referee: M Halsey (Welwyn Garden City).Reuse content