Paul Lambert, Norwich City's manager, described his team's victory at Carrow Road last night as "monumental". Late goals by Henri Lansbury and Andrew Surman secured a win that that lifted Norwich into second place in the Championship, three points clear of third-placed Swansea City, to strengthen the club's case for a return to the Premier League for the first time in six years.
With some of their rivals faltering as the sharp end of the campaign approaches, Norwich showed, with this whole-hearted performance, that they have it in them to secure promotion for the second season in succession. Bristol City, chasing a fifth successive victory, provided a stern challenge, particularly in the second half, but Norwich never faltered in their determination to secure all three points.
There is an assurance and belief about Norwich's play that makes them a handful for anyone. Comfortable on the ball and always looking to support the man in possession, they can wear teams down with a tireless approach.
They are hardly the sort of side that need the confidence boost of an early gift, but they were presented with one after just 42 seconds. Wes Hoolahan, released down the inside left channel by Simeon Jackson's flick, fell under Liam Fontaine's clumsy challenge and Grant Holt stepped up to smash home his 16th league goal of the season from the resulting penalty.
Norwich might have added a second following a surging run by Russell Martin, but neither Jackson nor Hoolahan could get on the end of his cross. Bristol, to their credit, quickly regrouped and it was soon clear that Norwich would have to work hard for their victory.
Albert Adomah in particular proved a regular threat with his runs from midfield and had twice forced John Ruddy to push shots round the post before he equalised midway through the second half. As Norwich retreated in the face of a Bristol counter-attack, Jamal Campbell-Ryce played a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Adomah, who beat Ruddy from 10 yards.
Norwich might have taken a taken a two-goal lead at the start of the second half, when Jackson slid the ball past the advancing David James, but there was not enough weight on his shot and Fontaine was able to clear the ball off the line.
Several more half-chances came and went for the home side, who found James in inspired form. The former England goalkeeper made a succession of spectacular saves, including one particularly brave effort to deny Andrew Crofts, throwing himself at the midfielder's feet as he shaped to shoot from 15 yards.
After 89 minutes, however, Norwich finally scored their second goal. Lansbury, a substitute, raced on to Hoolahan's clever pass, took two touches and then placed his shot beyond James's reach with the coolest of finishes.
In injury time Surman broke through on the left before sliding his shot into the far corner to send the Norwich faithful home to dreams of a return to the top flight. Lambert insisted afterwards that there was "miles to go" in the promotion race, but his team, unbeaten in their last seven matches, are timing their run to perfection.
Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy; Russell Martin, Ward, Whitbread, Tierney; Crofts, Fox, Hoolahan, Surman; Holt, Jackson (Lansbury, 81). Substitutes not used Rudd (gk), Drury, Edwards, Smith, Lappin, McNamee.
Bristol City (4-4-2): James; Spence, Caulker, Fontaine, Nyatanga; Adomah, Elliott, Cisse, Woolford (Pitman, 56); Clarkson (Campbell-Ryce, 56), Maynard. Substitutes not used Gerken (gk), Stewart, Johnson, Keogh, Ribeiro.
Referee C Boyeson (E Yorkshire).