Bolton Wanderers 3, Bristol City 2: Brave Robins can't hold on
Brave Bristol City were unable to hold on as a Chris Eagles-inspired Bolton came from behind to win in fine style at the Reebok Stadium.
Steven Davies fired the Robins in front after three minutes and added a second from the penalty spot after Martyn Woolford was tripped by Tim Ream midway through the first half.
But Eagles rammed in a free kick on the half hour to spark a fight-back and then turned provider as Jay Spearing and Martin Petrov netted second-half goals.
Liverpool starlet Spearing equalised on 62 minutes and Bulgarian international Petrov fired a dramatic winner to complete a remarkable comeback eight minutes from time.
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City pressed for an equaliser during the final stages, only for Sam Baldock to send his header wide of a gaping target.
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.
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.
Bolton set a high tempo at the start of the second period and danger-man Eagles was off target with an audacious attempt from range, while Mark Davies ought to have done better when meeting a Martin Petrov cross with a low shot that flew wide.
City still posed a threat on the counter-attack and Davies was unable to control his shot after being set-up by Adomah.
At the other end, Heaton dropped to his right to hold Jay Spearing's low drive and then kept out Petrov's first-time effort from a narrow angle as the home side built up a head of steam.
Heaton was again called into action, making a superb reaction save to deny Ben Afobe after another Eagles free kick caused mayhem at the heart of City's defence.
Bolton were threatening an equaliser and it arrived in the 62nd minute, City failing to track Spearing's run and the Liverpool midfielder accepting a neat through ball from Eagles to beat Heaton from 12 yards.
Deployed in a more central and advanced role in the second half, Eagles was causing the Robins all manner of problems and another mazy run culminated in Heaton making a smart save down at his left post.
Heaton made another vital intervention moments later, tipping Petrov's thunderous drive behind for a corner.
City appeared to have weathered the storm, only to concede again eight minutes from time. On as a substitute, South Korea international Chung-Yong Lee found Eagles, who played a delightful pass into the path of Petrov. Clean through and with only Heaton to beat, the Bulgarian steadied himself before shooting into the bottom corner to send the home crowd into uproar.
Bolton (4-4-2): Bogdan; Mears, Mills, Ream, Warnock; Eagles, M Davies, Spearing, Petrov (Pratley 86); Afobe (Lee 80), K Davies.
City (4-4-2): Heaton; Foster, Carey, McManus, Fontaine; Adomah, Skuse, Pearson, Woolford (Pitman 86); Davies (Taylor 63), Baldock.
Referee: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)