City rescued a point in a topsy-turvy battle with Lee Johnson’s Barnsley at Ashton Gate courtesy of a late Joe Bryan equaliser.
Marlon Pack’s 13th minute penalty looked to have set City on their way for a comfortable day’s work, but Jabo Ibehre struck a timely equaliser just before the interval to give the Tykes a foothold in the contest.
Josh Scowen silenced Ashton Gate by putting the visitors in front eight minutes into the second period, but late City pressure was rewarded when Bryan’s low shot crept just inside the far post to ensure a share of the spoils and a second 2-2 draw with the South Yorkshire outfit this season.
Steve Cotterill named an unchanged team following a day to remember in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley last time out.
It was City who started the brighter, showing no signs of lethargy on the back of a cup final appearance.
Korey Smith, once on loan at Barnsley from Norwich City, showed some neat footwork to elude a trio of tackles in midfield before Luke Freeman fired the first warning shot over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Then Mark Little showed a clean pair of heels to left-back George Smith to reach the byeline and roll the ball invitingly across goal but just fractionally beyond the sliding Kieran Agard.
Barnsley had experienced a goalkeeper crisis in the lead up to the game, with Ross Turnbull and Adam Davies injured, and Christian Dibble away on international duty.
That meant a senior debut for Joe Wildsmith, who signed on loan from Sheffield Wednesday on Thursday afternoon.
But the 19-year-old rookie was picking the ball out of his net before having a save to make when Agard was pole-axed by Jean-Yves Mvoto for a blatant penalty, from which Pack did the honours with his first ever Ashton Gate goal, low and driven to the keeper’s right.
The visitors arrived in BS3 protecting an eight-match unbeaten run including a sequence of six straight victories, but City seemed to be having little trouble quashing the Barnsley threat.
Instead the hosts were setting their sights on a second goal, as a clever piece of play from Freeman offered Aaron Wilbraham the chance to try his luck from 20 yards with a left-footed shot which had Wildsmith worried but just evaded the keeper’s left-hand post.
The Tykes were no pushovers and enjoying their fair share of possession without ever handing City too much space to express themselves.
But the visitors still managed to conjure an equalising goal out of nothing with just one minute still to play in the first half.
As Barnsley’s big men ambled forward for a free kick on the halfway line, Conor Hourihane opted to switch the angle of the set-piece by finding right-back Martin Cranie on the far side.
Cranie’s ensuing lofted ball from deep looked harmless enough, but Ibehre was allowed to take it down on his chest, turn and drill a low shot into the net via a deflection off Luke Ayling.
It was fine play from the powerful centre-forward, Barnsley’s only obvious outlet all afternoon, but City will have been disappointed with the time he was afforded inside the penalty area.
It was a goal that did Johnson’s men the power of good and the yellow shirts started the second half with a spring in their step.
Within eight minutes of the restart the play-off chasers were in front after more good work from Ibehre, who was proving a real handful.
Shaking off the attentions of Aden Flint, the Barnsley goalscorer slipped a neat pass in behind the backline for midfield runner Scowen, who looked destined to win a penalty when he beat Frank Fielding to the ball.
Fielding’s leg appeared to impede Scowen, but to his credit the Barnsley man kept his footing and finished impressively from a difficult angle, finding the roof of the net to beat two covering defenders on the City goal-line.
Cotterill wasted no time in looking for a response, as Jay Emmanuel-Thomas replaced Little just before the hour mark and City switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Emmanuel-Thomas at the tip of a midfield diamond flanked by Smith and Freeman.
The change almost paid instant dividends from a couple of quick-fire set-pieces, as Emmanuel-Thomas headed over from a Pack corner with his first touch before his long throw ended up at the feet of Agard who could only blaze over from 12 yards.
But it was not until the final ten minutes, amidst a torrential downpour, that City really began to lay siege to the visiting goal.
Derrick Williams threaded the ball inside Cranie for Bryan to race into the box only to be denied by the sprawling Wildsmith, who then made an even better stop from Williams.
City would not be denied and Wildsmith was eventually beaten again six minutes from time by the right foot of Bryan, so often his scoring foot in spite of not being his natural side, as his 20-yard shot just squirmed beyond the grip of the teenage shot-stopper to find the bottom corner.
Still City kept coming, as Bryan was denied a dramatic double by Wildsmith down by his near post, while Flint was guilty of a bad miss in the 90th minute when he headed over from a Wilbraham cross.