In advancing to the fourth round of the FA Cup last night, Cardiff City provided some much-needed relief to their malaise off the pitch and their illness in the dressing room. And the fact that this replay victory came at the expense of their cross-Severn rivals only made the sense of well-being seem that bit more lasting.
The 2008 finalists will now face Leicester at the same stadium on Saturday, with a place in the last 16 up for grabs. Cardiff were worthy winners of this tie, although the teams are clearly well-matched and well-versed in each other's strengths. Not surprising really, as this was the second of three successive Tuesday matches in which they face each other.
Only 6,731 turned up, which was a shame, if only because of the courage of Cardiff's performance in the wake of a virus that had swept through an already depleted squad. "Michael Chopra was throwing up on the pitch," Dave Jones, the manager, revealed. "And a week ago Mark Kennedy thought he was having a heart attack and was rushed to hospital. In fact, he had pleurisy. He still has fluid on the lung but had to come on."
There was, however, the little matter of the continuing negativity of the £2.7m tax bill acting as a deterrent against attendance. Peter Ridsdale, the Cardiff chief executive, announced when the threat of the winding-up order surfaced that he was confident the arrears would be paid in 10 days. Ten days on and there was still no news of payment or otherwise, despite Ridsdale's pledge at Christmas that the £3m raised by a season-ticket offer would be spent on new players. He has since admitted the club will not be signing anybody until the taxman is satisfied. They plainly need some bodies.
Those who did turn up witnessed Cardiff grasp the initiative from the off. Jay Bothroyd displayed some lovely touches and one of these set up Ross McCormack on the half-hour mark, but the Scotland international's effort was feeble. If McCormack was guilty in that instance, he was almost the hero in the next when his ball put Chopra through.
Bristol City came more into it in the second half, although their chances were kept to a minimum. But with Chopra, Bothroyd, McCormack and Peter Whittingham always dangerous, Cardiff had the edge. Eventually, it was the unfortunate Bradley Orr who diverted the ball into his own net as he tried to deal with Chopra's rebound off the post, following a cute pass from Whittingham.
McCormack and Chopra came close to increasing Cardiff's lead – the former hitting the woodwork from 30 yards, and the latter committing a few howlers with the net begging. Cardiff belied their fatigue to press on until the end, ensuring there would no injury-time rescue for Bristol City, as there was at Ashton Gate a week ago. The relief at the final whistle was obvious: one thing the Cardiff casualty crew did not need was extra-time.
Cardiff City (4-4-2): Marshall; Matthews (Kennedy, 78), Gyepes, Gerrard, Quinn; Whittingham, Ledley, Wildig (Chopra, 32), Burke (Blake, 66); Bothroyd, McCormack. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Hudson, Feeney, Meades.
Bristol City (4-4-1-1): Gerken; Orr, Fontaine, Carey, Nyatanga; Sproule, Skuse, Hartley, McAllister (Elliott, 83); Sno (Saborio, 62); Maynard (Akinde, 62). Substitutes not used: Henderson (gk), Clarkson, Williams, Ribeiro.
Referee: N Miller (Durham).