Tammy Abraham took his tally to four goals in three games to maintain City’s perfect start to the new season.
The visitors looked to have seen victory snatched away from them with only two minutes left after Abraham’s poacher’s effort late in the first half, but the Chelsea loanee popped up five minutes into stoppage time to make City’s first visit to the Pirelli Stadium one to remember.
Lee Johnson made two changes to his side who started the opening day win over Wigan Athletic at Ashton Gate a week ago.
Abraham was rewarded for scoring on his first two City appearances with his first league start, replacing Marlon Pack, while Mark Little came in for Luke Ayling, who was busy making his debut for new employers Leeds United.
An alteration in formation also ensued, with City adopting a traditional 4-4-2 system with Callum O’Dowda and Lee Tomlin on the flanks, and Abraham partnering Jonathan Kodjia for the first time up front.
City started on the front foot, enjoying some good early pressure in a match being played in a cup-tie atmosphere. Tomlin fired a warning shot into the arms of goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin before Burton began to make their mark.
The Brewers might have been hosting a second-tier fixture for the very first time, but in Lloyd Dyer they have a Sky Bet Championship veteran in their ranks.
The left wing-back caused problems for the City backline, seeing one cross headed over by Chris O’Grady before drilling another along the six-yard line that only just ran beyond the stretching Lucas Akins.
City would be forced to withstand some pressure from set-pieces before Dyer was at it again, this time forcing Josh Brownhill into an important clearance underneath his own crossbar.
Even at 33, the former Leicester City man was proving a real nuisance. Another delivery from the left ran through to Tom Flanagan at the far post, who wanted a penalty under the challenge of Joe Bryan, but the Bristolian just pulled out in time to avoid punishment.
City had been far from their best, but still found a way to edge in front through Abraham just a minute before the interval.
A long throw from Hordur Magnusson was the cause, as the Icelander launched the ball into the six-yard box.
When the hosts failed to clear, O’Dowda’s touch was helped in by Abraham from close range to give City the timeliest of openers.
Even when Abraham got his touch wrong, the ball was running for him. Early in the second period he misjudged his control but still sprinted through on goal, only for John Mousinho to recover and prod the ball behind with the striker eyeing up his fourth goal of the season already.
By this point Dyer had worried the visitors again, running at Aden Flint and only just dragging his shot beyond the far post, but that came in the middle of City’s best spell.
Magnusson still thinks he’s already scored in a red shirt but the record books suggest otherwise after Abraham was awarded City’s equaliser against Wigan, and the defender was hunting his first official strike from a Gary O’Neil corner, only to snatch at a half-volley from eight yards that looked tailor-made for his sweet left foot.
As time ticked on, Johnson needed to bring on Pack and Aaron Wilbraham to combat Albion’s lingering threat from dead balls.
O’Grady, Akins and Flanagan all had further sights of goal, while Kyle McFadzean hooked one wide and Matty Palmer was denied by the sprawling Richard O’Donnell, who, for all Burton’s efforts, had rarely been tested.
Just as it seemed City would see the job through, the drama was only just getting started.
Substitute Tom Naylor was in the right place at the right time to equalise – unmarked at the far post to spark jubilant scenes on a landmark day for the home team – but Kodjia’s brilliant run down the right and low cross was bundled home by new cult hero Abraham, sending the away end into raptures and City to the Championship summit.