Sven Goran Eriksson breathed a huge sigh of relief after coming through his first British cup tie with his reputation intact and Manchester City safely through – but only just – to the third round of the Carling Cup.
It took one moment of sublime finishing from Rolando Bianchi, Eriksson's £8m purchase from the Italian club Reggina, and a linesman's flag to secure the Premier League club a hard-earned victory when the Robins had threatened to take their illustrious visitors to extra time.
Michael McIndoe, the Scottish winger who helped to knock the Blues out of the same competition two years ago in his Doncaster days, had the ball in the home net with a cheeky back-heel in time added on but the player had strayed a yard offside.
Eriksson, the former England coach, said: "Yes I'm relieved to be through of course, because Bristol City are a good footballing side and I congratulated their manager [Gary Johnson] for that afterwards.
"But I think we should have finished the game off before half-time because we had four, five, six chances to score and only took one, and you can sometimes pay for that, but I think the result was fair."
McIndoe, who also forced the visiting goalkeeper Joe Hart into a spectacular save with a swerving volley, conceded: "The linesman got it spot on. I was just offside, so fair play to him but it was heartbreaking to lose."
Eriksson made eight changes to the side who lost for the first time in the Premier League at Arsenal on Saturday, but you would not have noticed it as his experimental side dominated most of the first half, in which Emile Mpenza, the Belgian international, shone with inventive forward play.
Eriksson may have needed a road map to find his way to Bristol, but his striker soon found the right route to goal when he drove in a vicious shot high into the net after 16 minutes.
Lee Trundle nearly restored parity when he forced Hart into a finger-tipping save with a curling shot before the £1m signing from Swansea hit the post with another.
Hart, the England Under-21 goalkeeper, denied McIndoe an equaliser with another exceptional save but the Championship new boys drew level on 68 minutes when the winger's free kick was headed on by Marvin Elliott for Bradley Orr to net from close range.
But just when Eriksson feared the prospect of an extra 30 minutes, Bianchi, who had earlier spurned two opportunities to score, rifled home a winner in the 80th minute with a low shot that gave Chris Weale, the home goalkeeper, no chance.
Johnson said: "If Sven said we played well that was nice of him, but we still don't like losing football matches and the lads are disappointed by the result.
"We matched them a lot of time in the second half and I thought we had got a deserved equaliser when McIndoe had the ball in the net, but he tells me he was just offside."
Bristol City (4-4-2): Weale; Orr (Jevons, 86), Carey, Fontaine, McAllister; Wilson (Sproule, 53), Elliott, Johnson, McIndoe; Trundle, Murray. Substitutes not used: Basso (gk), Skuse, Vasko.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart; Sun, Corluka, Onuoha, Ball; Logan, Fernandes, Ireland; Mpenza, Bianchi (Dickov, 90), Geovanni (Dabo, 83). Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Mills, Laird.
Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire).
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