HALF-TIME: Bolton Wanderers 1, Bristol City 2
Robins manager Derek McInnes urged his players not to respect Premier League reputations and to impose themselves on the game – and they took him at his word.
Adopting a positive approach from the very first whistle, City took the lead inside three minutes to add to managerless Bolton's problems.
Albert Adomah found Stephen Pearson from a short corner and the Scot curled an enticing cross beyond the white-shirted defenders to the unmarked Steven Davies, who pivoted acrobatically to beat Hungarian keeper Adam Bogdan with a brilliant volley from 15 yards out.
Low on confidence following a poor start to the season and the sacking of manager Owen Coyle, Bolton's players and fans were clearly stunned. Already frustrated, home supporters vented their ire on winger Chris Eagles, who elected to shoot harmless over when Kevin Davies was better placed inside the penalty area.
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He did rather better with a free kick that required Cole Skuse to head clear under pressure from Matt Mills, but City were coping quite comfortably with the home side's physicality.
In fact, it came as little surprise when the visitors doubled their lead on 20 minutes. Skuse won the ball in the centre of midfield and fed Adomah, whose pass looked to have put Marty Woolford in the clear until the winger was upended by centre-back Tim Ream inside the 18 yard box.
Referee Mark Brown immediately pointed to the penalty spot and, after a delay caused by fruitless Lancastrian protests, Davies sent Bogdan the wrong way to register his second goal of the game and his fourth since joining City from Derby in the summer.
Bolton's body language suggested they urgently needed something to go their way and an opportunity presented itself on the half hour, Louis Carey bringing down Eagles on the edge of City's 18 yard box.
Eagles dusted himself down and drilled the free kick beyond Tom Heaton and into the bottom right-hand corner of the net to put the Trotters back in the game.
City came under sustained pressure as Wanderers forced a series of free kicks and corners, but survived until half time without further mishap.