Mark Perrow reports from Ashton Gate
A sell-out crowd saw Sam Baldock rescue a last-gasp point against fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.
The visitors opened the scoring against the run of play on 36 minutes when Jermaine Johnson raced clean through and rounded Tom Heaton to slide the ball into the empty net.
City continued to press as the clock ran down, seeing a strong penalty shout turned down before Baldock pounced.
In truth it was the least the hosts deserved, but on a day when three points were desperately needed to propel the Robins back into the survival shake-up.
O’Driscoll made two changes to his side beaten 3-0 at Derby on Good Friday, with Liam Kelly and Stephen Pearson recalled to the starting line-up at the expense of Neil Kilkenny and Paul Anderson.
City began brightly, with Baldock producing a magnificent cross towards Steven Davies, but the striker was prevented a clear sight of goal by a crucial glancing header from Miguel Llera, who was just tall enough to divert the ball away from danger.
The good start continued when Lewin Nyatanga charged forward and inadvertently exchanged passes with a yellow shirt before finding himself clean through on goal. In unfamiliar territory, the defender attempted to curl a left-footed shot inside the far post only for Chris Kirkland to repel his well-placed effort.
Next to go close was top scorer Davies, whose low cross only just eluded Baldock, before he was teed up by the former West Ham United man and saw his right-footed drive turned away by the legs of the former England keeper.
The visitors’ first chance of note arrived when Cole Skuse dallied in possession and only succeeded in giving the ball to Johnson, whose pace and power took him away from a host of City players before he skied his shot high into the Atyeo Stand.
At the other end, O’Driscoll’s side regained the initiative when Skuse’s deep corner was picked up by Liam Kelly, whose driven centre looked destined for the head of Davies, but the forward just could not climb high enough to make a suitable connection.
Marvin Elliott looked like profiting from another teasing Kelly cross 12 minutes before the interval, but the Scottish international’s ball in just bounced in front of the City captain, who failed to apply the touch required to force it home.
City’s chances had mounted up without being converted, and the hosts were duly punished by Johnson’s opportunism. When Liam Fontaine hesitated underneath a bouncing ball, the Jamaican nipped in, raced through on goal and rounded Heaton to score in clinical fashion.
It was a sickening blow, but the home fans should have been celebrating an equaliser before half-time.
Greg Cunningham’s long pass down the line freed Baldock, who accelerated away from Llera and crossed invitingly for Davies, who only needed a touch to find the net but the ball somehow eluded his desperate slide and Wednesday escaped.
City’s positive display continued after the break. Baldock and Davies both saw close-range free kicks blocked, before Johnson collected a long ball with his back to goal and conjured up an opening for himself with a superb solo run only to drag his shot across Heaton’s far post.
Moments later the winger’s number was up when he was replaced by Ashton Gate old boy Leroy Lita – subjected to boos as he entered the fray before immediately finding himself clean through on goal, only for his left-footed shot to hit the side-netting.
City were still doing their best to force an equaliser, but had found opportunities hard to come by since the interval. O’Driscoll attempted to redress the balance midway through the second half by introducing Kilkenny and Albert Adomah
from the bench in place of Kelly and Pearson.
The major talking point of the game arrived 15 minutes from time when Cunningham exchanged passes with Davies, surged into the penalty area and went down under a mistimed challenge from Wednesday right-back Kieran Lee.
The defender was undoubtedly nowhere near the ball, but referee Darren Deadman argued contact with the Irishman was minimal and controversially booked the City man for a dive, igniting mass protests from everybody in red inside Ashton Gate.
The home side still were not finished. Kilkenny’s cross from the right produced another chance for Davies who could only glance his header wide, before a high ball dropped out of the sky kindly for Adomah on the volley eight yards out, but the winger blasted his shot high into the Atyeo Stand.
Five minutes of added time sparked a desperate finale, as emergency striker Nyatanga saw a shot blocked by a last-ditch challenge, before Adomah’s deep cross was punched out by Kirkland only as far as Baldock, who gleefully smashed the loose ball into the net on the half-volley.
City continued to pour forward in search of a winner, but Wednesday survived the remaining minutes of stoppage time to cling on to a point.