FULL-TIME: Bristol City 4, Peterborough United 2
Bristol City beat fellow strugglers Peterborough United to register their first home win in four months and throw themselves a Championship lifeline.
Sam Baldock's double and further goals from Paul Anderson and Stephen McManus inspired a much-needed victory, their first at Ashton Gate since Cardiff were beaten way back on August 25.
Bottom of the table before kick-off, the Robins are now 22nd and just three points adrift of Sheffield Wednesday and safety.
Bidding for a first home win in 10 attempts, City enjoyed a dream start, Anderson firisng them in front after five minutes.
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Reduced to 10 men when Lee Tomlin was sent off for violent conduct moments later, Peterborough equalised through Grant McCann from the penalty spot.
But Baldock swept City back in front shortly before half time and McManus headed a third on 60 minutes.
Baldock made the game safe three minutes later, smashing his ninth goal of the season from the penalty spot after man of the match Anderson had been brought down.
Dwight Gayle pulled one back for Posh a minute from full-time, but it was nothing more than a consolation.
The result was a personal triumph for under-pressure City boss Derek McInnes, whose team selection surprised many inside Ashton Gate.
He dropped centre-back Liam Fontaine for the first time this season, retained the 3-5-2 system he had planned to use against Watford on Boxing Day, deployed Albert Adomah and Richard Foster as wing-backs, switched Cunningham to the centre of defence and recalled Anderson.
If City supporters were left scratching their heads, so were Peterborough, who appeared nonplussed by City's approach.
They were left chasing shadows as the Robins took the lead after just five minutes. Cole Skuse set Baldock free on the right flank and the striker looked up and picked out Anderson with a cross that rendered the midfielder's header straightforward.
It was only Anderson's second goal since arriving from Nottingham Forest in the summer and represented his most important contribution to date.
City should have doubled their lead moments later, Baldock ghosting in behind a shambolic Posh defence, only to drag his shot wide of goal with only keeper Bobby Olejnik to beat.
Controversy flared in the 12th minute, Posh striker Tomlin elbowing Cunningham in the face in an off the ball incident and leaving referee Andrew Madley with no option but to show him a straight red card.
But the 10 men bounced back strongly and City's hopes of keeping a first clean sheet of the season were dashed on 19 minutes. Cunningham should have dealt with a high through ball played by Joe Newell, but left his back header short. Tom Heaton rushed from his goal to trip George Boyd and referee Madley pointed to the spot.
Heaton escaped with a yellow card but was powerless to prevent McCann equalising from the subsequent penalty.
Undeterred, City continued to create the better chances and Jon Stead shot weakly straight at Olejnik after being set-up by Baldock, while Peterborough's keeper made a smart save to deny Anderson a second goal, dropping to his right to gather a low shot from just inside the 18 yard box.
Just when it looked as though City might pay the price for missed chances, they regained the lead eight minutes before half time. Baldock ran at the Posh defence, played a neat one-two with Anderson and produced an emphatic finish to beat Olejnik from 10 yards out and register his eighth goal of the season.
He should have doubled his tally on the stroke of half-time, receiving a sublime through ball from Stead and hitting the post when everyone inside Ashton Gate expected the net to bulge.
Stead's ability to pick a pass and Baldock's pace continued to cause Posh problems after the break and the latter was denied a clear sight of goal only by Tommy Rowe's last-ditch intervention.
But there was no stopping the Robins and their third goal arrived on the hour mark from an unlikely source. Adomah directed a corner towards the far post where McManus rose high to head his first goal for the club.
And City put the outcome beyond doubt three minutes later. Anderson was tripped inside the 18 yard box by Michael Bostwick, referee Madley awarded a penalty and Baldock stepped up to beat Olejnik from the spot.
City's defence was again undone by a lofted through ball a minute from time, Gayle netting his seventh goal in six games, but City were already home and dry.
City (3-5-2): Heaton; Bates, McManus, Cunningham; Adomah, Skuse, Danns, Anderson (Kilkenny 77), Foster (Bryan 53); Stead (Davies 81), Baldock.
Peterborough (3-5-2): Olejnik; Bostwick, Zakuani, Knight-Percival (Brisley 51); Little, Newell (Swanson 62), McCann (Ferdinand 57), Boyd, Rowe; Tomlin, Gayle.
Referee: Andrew Madley (West Yorks).