Burnley snatched a cruel last-gasp winner to take maximum points from another Ashton Gate epic.
Chris McCann’s looping header on the stroke of full time left Paul Anderson’s first City goal academic.
Substitute Anderson looked to have salvaged a point in the 90th minute after Derek McInnes’ side had trailed 3-1 with only 14 minutes to go.
Visitors Burnley raced into an early lead through Charlie Austin’s 10th minute opener, but the scores were level at half-time thanks to a sweet Steven Davies free kick.
The npower Championship’s most prolific marksman struck his 15th league goal of the season from the penalty spot, before Martin Paterson’s deflected shot on the hour looked to bring a subdued end to the drama.
But Sam Baldock struck with a spot-kick of his own to make it 3-2, and Anderson seemed certain to have secured a spirited draw when he found the net after Albert Adomah
’s free kick came back off the post.
However, Burnley somehow had the final say when McCann’s header from a tight angle dropped into the far corner to break City hearts.
McInnes made three changes to his side beaten 3-2 by Bolton Wanderers three days prior, including a first home start of the season for Joe Bryan on the left wing.
Mark Wilson also returned to the starting line-up at Louis Carey’s expense, while both sides were forced into last-minute alterations with Jody Morris and Paterson drafted in for injured duo Stephen Pearson and Ross Wallace respectively.
But in a cagey opening period it was a predictable name in the visiting ranks who broke the deadlock, as Austin raced clear of a worryingly exposed City defence to round Tom Heaton and score for the eighth successive game from the first chance of the night.
However, McInnes has his own very much in-form frontman in the shape of Davies, who ensured the Robins were only behind for seven minutes before thundering a 25-yard free kick into the top corner.
It came from a position just left of centre and not necessarily ideal for a left footer, but the striker cracked a curling drive over the high part of the wall and comfortably beyond Burnley keeper Lee Grant diving high to his right.
It was the former Derby County man’s fifth goal for his new club on only his third start, as he extended his run as the only City player to score in this calendar month.
Clearly high on confidence, he tried his luck from another dead ball soon after from fully 35 yards. This time it was the raw power approach, but the ball sailed a couple of yards high and wide and Grant could breathe again.
Everything positive was coming through Davies, and his inswinging free kick towards the far post only just eluded the onrushing Morris as Burnley smothered the ball to safety.
The Clarets had hardly threatened besides the exploits of master poacher Austin, but did have another chance through Paterson ten minutes shy of the interval, only for the Northern Irishman to be flagged offside as his downward header bounced up into the arms of Heaton.
At the other end it was Liam Fontaine – perhaps the least likely to find the net – who tried his luck with a speculative half volley when Burnley failed to clear a set piece, but could only find the East End.
The visitors had the final say of a watchable first half when captain Jason Shackell stooped to head a right-wing corner goalwards, but again Heaton was well placed to save comfortably.
City were quickest out of the blocks after the interval, with Davies again chancing his arm from distance with a shot this time deflected away for a corner, from which Morris tried to place a shot past Grant but only found the keeper’s midriff.
But things started to unravel for McInnes and co. just before the hour, when Dean Marney’s deep cross was headed back by McCann against the arm of Wilson, and referee Lee Collins duly pointed to the spot.
Austin did the honours, putting Heaton the wrong way with minimum fuss, but that was just the start of the misery, as 2-1 became 3-1 two minutes later.
Good work by McCann down the left set up Paterson, who steadied himself before firing against the legs of Richard Foster and cruelly beyond the wrong-footed Heaton at his near post.
But City were not finished, and Cole Skuse struck a rising drive over the crossbar before Collins handed the hosts a lifeline, pointing to the spot when Stephen McManus was adjudged to have been blocked off in trying to get on the end of Wilson’s corner.
With Davies having been substituted to make way for Ryan Taylor, Baldock took responsibility from 12 yards and repeated Austin’s trick to half the deficit.
Anderson looked set to grab the morning’s headlines with a left-footed finish as the clock struck 90, but the only smiles by the end were claret and blue.