Mark Perrow reports from Ricoh ArenaTwo first-half goals did the damage to send a bumper away following home happy despite a low key display from their team in the Midlands.
City struck early and late in the opening period, through Marlon Pack’s first goal for the club on his 60th appearance and Kieran Agard’s sixth of the season.
Out of form Coventry were booed off at half-time and showed little to worry the table toppers after the break until Shaun Miller halved the deficit with 14 minutes to play.
Suddenly there was a spring in the step of the home team, but not enough to overcome a City display more effective than attractive in claiming maximum points, secured by Scott Wagstaff’s first goal of the campaign in the dying seconds.
Steve Cotterill was forced into shuffling his pack for the first time in nine league matches after hamstring injury victim Korey Smith was deemed unfit for a place in the squad, with Pack filling the void in the holding midfield role.
The hosts’ adventurous-looking 3-4-3 formation ensured an open start to the contest, with both sides forcing early corners and City keeper Frank Fielding having to be brave to save at the feet of Josh McQuoid before the noisy travelling contingent took the volume up another notch on 11 minutes.
Hesitant defending in the home backline led to a poor clearance which bobbled invitingly into the path of Pack
, who still had a crowd of bodies and 25 yards to negotiate but buried his first-time shot through the traffic and into the bottom corner.
The Sky Blues came into the game on the back of four defeats out of five in the league but to their credit responded well to falling behind.
Jim O’Brien was quick to keep Fielding on his toes with a skidding drive which the keeper had to turn around his right-hand post within three minutes of the opener after a perfect sliding challenge from Aden Flint to halt Mohamed Coulibaly in his tracks.
City had not been at their best but began to edge closer to top gear as half-time approached. Joe Bryan’s typical burst down the left produced a cross from the byeline met sweetly on the volley by Wade Elliott, whose strike looked on target only to cannon into a blue shirt.
Then Elliott caught Coventry cold when his quickly taken short corner found Luke Freeman in plenty of space to pick out unmarked namesake Ayling whose goalbound header struck Agard
in an offside position.
But the striker’s moment would come in the final minute of the half when he raced on to Aaron Wilbraham’s flick on and poked the ball beyond advancing keeper Ryan Allsop, leaving over 3,700 City fans rejoicing long before it nestled in the corner of the net.
The second period was a case of more of the same, with Cotterill’s side remarkably comfortable in the game without playing close to their best.
Slowly but surely Coventry’s belief began to creep back in, and only a brilliant piece of last-ditch defending from Mark Little prevented substitute Ryan Haynes from halving the deficit as he charged in to meet Simeon Jackson’s low cross.
Fielding had been a spectator since Agard’s timely second, but had to scamper across his goal to keep out a strong header from Aaron Phillips.
A hint of complacency had sneaked into the league leaders and a sparse home crowd suddenly founf their voice when Miller
rifled home a lifeline 14 minutes from time.
Peeling away from Aden Flint, the substitute latched on to Adam Barton’s slide rule pass and finished in style with a powerful shot to beat Fielding at his near post.
But Coventry lacked the necessary cutting edge to find an equaliser and were ultimately undone on the break by two City replacements, as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas supplied Wagstaff
, who checked inside and lashed the ball beyond Allsop to ensure the Robins had scored three goals in a game for the seventh time in eight matches.