City would have to settle for a point at home to survival hopefuls Rotherham United, whose intentions to spoil the game made for a stop-start encounter.
The rejuvenated Millers, who topped the Sky Bet Championship form table coming into the clash, took the lead through Matt Derbyshire’s delicate lob after 12 minutes.
The rest of the first half was frustrating stuff as City struggled for a sustained rhythm in the face of some underhand tactics from the visitors, as the home crowd became increasingly irate with opposition and officials alike.
Thankfully a more open second period lay in wait, and Peter Odemwingie lashed home an unstoppable equaliser nine minutes after the interval before seeing a late header saved by goalkeeper Lee Camp as City looked the more likely winners.
Lee Johnson promised to make changes following Saturday’s defeat at Hull City and did exactly that.
Korey Smith returned to the starting line-up after six weeks out with an ankle injury along with Aaron Wilbraham, who shone in the 6-0 thrashing of Bolton Wanderers last time out at Ashton Gate, while Bobby Reid and Jonathan Kodjia dropped to the bench.
City started brightly, forcing a corner inside the very first minute, and Wilbraham had a penalty claim waved away before Marlon Pack’s ambitious lob from 40 yards was dealt with comfortably by Camp.
Johnson likes his teams to play with a swagger and City were clearly in confident mood, but it would not take a flowing move to break them down as Rotherham struck first on 12 minutes.
Instead it was route one stuff. Centre-back Richard Wood looked up and sent a long ball straight down the middle of the pitch where Derbyshire’s pace saw him escape the City backline and finish clinically, lifting the ball over the advancing Richard O’Donnell.
The goal did nothing to alter the pattern of play. City remained in the ascendancy, but Rotherham – ominously – now had a lead to protect, and were not prepared to venture far beyond their own half.
Another penalty appeal came and went. Again on Wilbraham, as the skipper was sent tumbling by another clumsy barge, before Odemwingie lashed the loose ball over the crossbar.
The City supporters were becoming increasingly irate. Manhandling from the visitors went consistently unpunished by the officials, yet frequent petty fouls made it tough for either side to attack with any fluency – not that Neil Warnock was too bothered.
City’s best hope for the time being was to score from a set-piece, which looked a dead cert when Aden Flint met Lee Tomlin’s corner, only for goalkeeper Lee Camp to pull off a miraculous save, diving to his right and tipping the ball over the bar.
So to another corner, from which Rotherham cleared the danger and vacated their box en masse – all but Greg Halford that is, who stayed down for five minutes receiving extensive treatment including an oxygen mask, before continuing his day patrolling the centre circle seemingly unaffected.
The seven minutes of added time told its own story. Of course by scoring first Rotherham had earned the right to do so, and they could hardly be accused of not working hard for one another, but it was tough to see much in their gameplan beyond wasting time and spoiling tactics.
It was imperative that City kept their composure. Fortunately they had 15 minutes in the dressing room to collect their thoughts and devise a plan to unlock an uncompromising visiting team.
If Johnson’s half-time message was to get in behind the Millers down the flanks and deliver crosses, it worked.
Adam Matthews chipped one up to the back post where Joe Bryan came steaming in, but Rotherham cleared.
Then Smith got himself to the byeline but Camp read his intentions, diving full stretch to retrieve his cutback.
But City were getting more joy and the equaliser duly followed. Another cross, this time from Scott Golbourne, was cleared only as far as Odemwingie, who kept his head to smash home an unstoppable left-footed shot from 14 yards that flew past Camp.
City had worked hard to break through, but using the goal as a springboard to push on and win the game was proving tricky with chances at either end few and far between.
There was a better flow about the contest and that suited City, whose most likely route to goal remained via wide areas.
The increasingly influential Matthews sent a beauty of a cross on to the head of the unmarked Odemwingie six yards out, who headed the ball down and on target but without the necessary conviction and Camp just about clawed it to safety.
That was with 12 minutes to go and City continued to press, but were given a timely reminder that a point was better than nothing when Grant Ward raced down the wing and crossed low to namesake Danny, who got across the near post and steered the ball goalwards but not past the alert O’Donnell, who gathered at the second attempt.
Substitute Kodjia nearly had the final say, cutting inside and sending a powerful drive towards the near post smartly repelled by the impressive Camp, but Rotherham held on for a hard-fought point.