A game seemingly destined to finish goalless ended in a third successive City defeat thanks to a huge slice of luck in favour of visitors Brentford.
The Robins had started impressively, throwing everything at the Bees in the first quarter of a match which then descended into a chanceless slugfest.
With a stalemate on the horizon, substitute Sam Saunders saw his long-range shot cruelly deflect into the net to break the deadlock and deflate the home crowd 11 minutes from time.
When Saunders’ corner kick six minutes later was converted at close quarters by Clayton Donaldson, the result was settled.
City replacement Marlon Harewood tapped home his first goal for the club in stoppage time, but a dramatic comeback was not forthcoming.
Sean O’Driscoll handed a league debut to Lewis Dunk in central defence in the absence of suspended regular Aden Flint, while Marvin Elliott was recalled having been away on international duty, with Joe Bryan making way as City opted for a narrow-looking midfield shape.
The head coach had discussed in his programme notes the tactical alternatives available to him in as he looks to guide his team through an unwanted winless start to the league campaign.
One of which was the option to “gamble and go gung-ho”, and, judging by the opening exchanges, this was to be the plan for the night.
Scott Wagstaff set the tone with a shot from distance in the very first minute, before Elliott was denied by a last-ditch block.
A succession of early corners backed up the Robins’ early dominance, while Jay Emmanuel-Thomas showed a different side to his game by sliding in to dispossess Brentford’s Alan McCormack and firing a low ball across goal, only for the Bees to swot the danger amidst a melee of bodies.
But for all of City’s early intent, the visitors ultimately did a decent job of taking the sting out of proceedings and playing their way into the contest.
Marlon Pack’s 35-yarder which just dipped too late kept them on their toes, but McCormack’s drive at the other end served as a timely reminder that O’Driscoll’s side were not in complete control.
And a left-wing burst to the byeline from on-loan Cardiff City man Kadeem Harris created an even more presentable opening for Will Grigg, but the ball was just too high for the striker to get the desired touch to divert his header on target.
The second half began in slightly bizarre fashion, as a member of the crowd was called upon to be the new fourth official after a member of the refereeing team was declared injured and unable to continue his duties.
On the pitch, the lively Harris danced his way through a couple of red shirts and sent a speculative curling shot well wide.
Before long it was time for the stand-in official to seize his big moment when Brentford swapped strikers – Marcello Trotta for Grigg. Thankfully, the electronic board was in full working order under its new stewardship.
After such an explosive start to the first period, City had struggled to maintain such a level of threat and last season’s play-off finalists were creeping more and more into the contest.
When McCormack’s devilish cross picked out the run from deep of Adam Forshaw, the home crowd endured a heart in mouth moment as the midfielder’s glancing header flashed only inches wide.
Bearing in mind the helter-skelter opening to the game, it was hard to see such an uneventful second half unfolding, but in truth the contest had descended into what appeared a nailed on goalless draw.
However, quite typically, City were outdone out of nothing as another clean sheet slipped away 11 minutes from time.
Fresh from the bench, Saunders hit a harmless-looking low shot which cannoned against the shins of a defender and wrong-footed Elliot Parish in the home goal.
It was difficult to remember the keeper touching the ball with his hands all night before having to fish it out of his own net.
O’Driscoll responded by throwing caution to the wind, introducing a supplementary striker in the form of Harewood for Bobby Reid, but his side’s chances of snatching a point soon diminished when Donaldson turned in Saunders’ left-wing corner to kill the game.
Harewood was in the right place to get the finishing touch on Emmanuel-Thomas’ cross, but the 90 minutes had already elapsed, and so too had City’s hopes of landing a first league win at the 12th attempt.