City ended Championship life at Ashton Gate with a third straight home defeat as strugglers Huddersfield took a huge step towards survival courtesy of a James Vaughan hat-trick.
The on-loan Norwich City striker gave the visitors a perfect start inside the opening two minutes and doubled his tally soon after, before scoring his second header of the afternoon 19 minutes after the interval.
Lewin Nyatanga gave the home fans a farewell present in the shape of a late consolation, but City were well beaten on the day.
Sean O’Driscoll made changes to both personnel and formation, as Marvin Elliott returned from injury at the expense of Brendan Moloney, previously an ever-present since his arrival from Nottingham Forest in January.
Moloney’s absence meant Richard Foster continued on the right flank, albeit in his more familiar full-back role rather than as a wing-back in the 3-5-2 setup at Hull last time out.
But City would suffer a nightmare start. Oliver Norwood was inches wide with a curling 25-yard free kick before Oscar Goburn’s innocuous-looking long ball caught out a static City defence, allowing Lee Novak to race clear and square the ball for Vaughan to finish with ease.
And City were in danger again before long, as Novak brushed off Matthew Bates and burst into the box. Again he opted to square the ball for strike partner Vaughan, but this time his pass was just overcooked and the sliding frontman was unable to reach it at the far post.
Huddersfield had exploded out of the blocks and their dream start was not over, as another Norwood set-piece from the left was glanced on by Vaughan into the bottom corner of Tom Heaton’s net.
City could not get going. Novak, only recalled to the side in the absence of Jermaine Beckford, was causing real problems, and a wonderful pass with the outside of his right foot sent Vaughan clean through before Heaton stuck out a foot to divert his placed shot just wide.
The former Everton man might easily have been celebrating a hat-trick with only 19 minutes on the clock, but the hosts finally showed signs of causing problems when Baldock’s cross was headed wide by Bates following a Steven Davies free kick.
At the other end, Vaughan found himself as a temporary right-winger and fired a low ball across the penalty area for Novak to attack at the near post, only for his first-time effort to clear the crossbar.
City had struggled to cope with the visitors’ hunger, fighting for their Championship lives in their first season back in the second tier, but Liam Kelly gave Town something to think about with a stinging 25-yarder that just eluded Alex Smithies’ right-hand post in front of the East End.
O’Driscoll waited ten minutes into the second half before turning to his bench to introduce Huddersfield-born Jon Stead for the striker’s first appearance in seven weeks, leaving City with Albert Adomah
, Baldock, Davies and Stead as attacking options on the field.
But chances were proving tough to come by at both ends, until Vaughan completed his treble on 64 minutes. Again Novak was the provider, crossing from the right for the goalscorer to head down and back across Heaton into the bottom corner.
City had struggled to create throughout against a resilient Huddersfield display, but Kelly chanced his arm from distance again and saw his shot hit a hand and loop goalwards, only to bounce back out off the crossbar.
Referee Paul Tierney then pulled play back for handball, so his decision had the ball nestled in the net would have been an interesting one.
In the meantime, City were coming forward with purpose as Stead helped a clever pass around the corner for Adomah. When the winger pulled the ball back from the byeline for Baldock, his cute backheel appeared to strike the foot of the near post on its way behind for a goal kick.
But Vaughan remained a menace, and latched on to another piercing through ball only to drill a low shot against the legs of Heaton.
Vaughan might easily have had five, but it was number six who brought Ashton Gate to its feet ten minutes from time, as Louis Carey replaced Bates for what could be his final home appearance, 18 years on from his debut and four games short of John Atyeo’s club record.
City reduced the arrears through Nyatanga’s second goal of the season, heading home Greg Cunningham’s cross in the 90th minute, but it was not enough to dent the jubilant mood among the travelling fans.