City safely negotiated their first FA Cup first round tie in seven years with a comfortable home victory over Sky Bet League Two visitors Dagenham.
The Robins were slow out of the blocks and might have fallen behind before Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ 13th goal of the season lifted any lingering tension around Ashton Gate.
From then on the home side were dominant, but had to wait until the final four minutes to make the game safe, as substitute Marvin Elliott forced the ball home following some neat play from Marlon Pack.
But it was the outstanding Emmanuel-Thomas who rightly had the final say, firing a powerful low shot into the far corner from 18 yards to complete the scoring in stoppage time.
Sean O’Driscoll made three changes to his side who recorded a first home league win of the season against Crawley Town, all enforced.
Loan duo Karleigh Osborne and Simon Gillett were both ineligible, while midweek goalscorer Joe Bryan missed out through injury.
Aden Flint and Bobby Reid returned to the starting line-up alongside Greg Cunningham, making his first start for a month.
It was City who controlled the early possession, but the unfancied visitors who created the first chance.
Rhys Murphy, League Two’s leading marksman with eight goals to his name this season, cleverly exchanged passes with former West Ham United winger Zavon Hines and advanced into the penalty area only to place a tame shot straight into the arms of Elliot Parish.
It was the first in a series of nervy moments for the hosts. First Parish caught what looked suspiciously like a backpass from Aden Flint and got away with it, before the City keeper was nearly punished for vacating his goal.
Coming off his line with the intention of collecting a left-wing cross, Parish got nowhere near the ball as Luke Howell slid in to divert it goalwards only for Flint to make a last-ditch clearance.
From the same attack, Howell flung himself at another cross from the same flank but sent his diving header just over the top.
It was becoming a familiar threat, as Howell again arrived late in the box to send a low shot towards the bottom corner which Parish did well to smother just a minute later.
At the other end, City were forcing a series of corners without managing to test Chris Lewington in the Daggers’ goal until Marlon Pack’s 30-yard free kick forced a diving save and another corner.
After Cunningham got around the back but saw his cross snuffed out, Brendan Moloney received similar freedom down the City right when released by Scott Wagstaff.
The Irishman’s intelligent cutback picked out Emmanuel-Thomas, who took a touch before dispatching a left-footed shot which deflected past Lewington from 15 yards.
City might have doubled the lead when the in-form striker led a two-on-two breakaway but chose to ignore the run of Sam Baldock to his right and lost the ball.
The goal had clearly settled the men in red, who started the second half well on top. Emmanuel-Thomas, who had not looked his usual self for 35 minutes, weaved his way beyond two challenges and fired the ball towards the back post only for a crucial interception to deny Flint a tap in.
Moloney again got in behind Dagenham left-back Jack Connors but saw Lewington prevent his cross reaching Baldock, before Wagstaff’s cross should have been converted by Flint who could not keep his header down.
City were turning the screw. A sublime cushioned pass from Emmanuel-Thomas released Reid, but a timely sliding tackle denied the youngster just as he prepared to pull the trigger.
The Robins’ number ten was at the heart of everything, creating a shooting chance from nothing as a well-struck right-footer had Lewington scrambling across his goal in vain as the ball just eluded his left-hand post from distance.
City’s next chance fell to Wagstaff, who found space inside the penalty area and saw his shot seemingly strike the hand of a defender – just without the approval of referee Andy Woolmer.
Dagenham could not stem the flow of attacks. Emmanuel-Thomas, head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch, swapped passes with Reid before Scott Doe made the latest in a long line of excellent blocks to keep the hosts at bay.
Almost inevitably, in the cup of shocks, the Daggers had their moments in the closing stages.
The lively Hines escaped Shorey, who resisted the urge to bring him down in full flight before the winger’s shot deflected behind for a corner.
It was the visitors’ first of the game. City had already taken 16.
Eight minutes after coming off the bench, Elliott finally sealed his side’s passage into the second round following some excellent work from former Daggers loanee Pack, who waltzed through two tired challenges before the substitute forced the ball home.
Jordan Wynter and Wes Burns were given a handful of minutes to impress late on. The latter came close to a first senior goal when fed by the mercurial Emmanuel-Thomas, but his left-foot shot fell just the wrong side of the near post.
The same could not be said for man of the match Emmanuel-Thomas, who crowned a fine individual display with a driven shot straight as an arrow across Lewington and into the far corner.
It was a scoreline which more accurately reflected the dominance of O’Driscoll’s side, albeit against modest opposition.