Chris Eagles, Jay Spearing and Martin Petrov get the goals as Wanderers produce an epic comeback
Wanderers produced a scintillating comeback to ensure that Jimmy Phillips’ first game in charge was one to remember.
The Whites were trailing by two goals with 20 minutes played through Steven Davies’ early brace – an acrobatic volley and a well-taken penalty.
But the Whites reacted in the best possible way, scoring three goals of their own to take all the points.
Chris Eagles’ free-kick – his sixth strike of the campaign – reduced arrears going into half-time before Bolton produced a spectacular second-half showing.
Jay Spearing made it all-square on 62 minutes and Martin Petrov won the game late on with a well-taken left-foot curler.
There were three changes to the team that took to the field against Millwall. In came Martin Petrov, Benik Afobe and Tim Ream, with Keith Andrews and David Ngog dropping down to the bench, while Zat Knight wasn’t included in matchday 18.
Things didn’t go to the script for Wanderers inside the first 20 minutes as Bristol City took a shock early foothold in the contest.
The visitors gained the advantage with just three minutes played when midfielder Davies acrobatically volleyed his team in front.
Following a quickly taken corner, Stephen Pearson clipped the ball into the penalty box and Davies adjusted his body shape before scissor-kicking the ball into the bottom corner of the net past the helpless Bogdan from ten yards out.
Wanderers were stung by a second Bristol City goal shortly after through another penalty – the sixth that the Whites have conceded this season.
Martyn Woolford had his legs taken just inside the box by a stray Ream challenge and Davies confidently stepped up to send Bogdan the wrong way from 12 yards out.
Two goals down inside the opening quarter of the game, interim boss Phillips then got the reaction from his team that he was looking for. Wanderers started playing from the 22nd minute.
After Kevin Davies had fired over following a Petrov cross, Eagles halved the deficit with yet another expertly taken free-kick.
The winger had been decked just outside the box but he picked himself up to smash in the resulting set-piece. Similarly to his goal at Millwall, he opted for power, with the ball flying through the wall and into the corner of the net.
It was huff and puff for the remainder of the first half, but the second 45 minutes was a sight to behold – certainly the best period of football from Wanderers this season.
Right from first whistle in the second half, it was one-way traffic. Bolton had their opponents on the rocks, starting when Mark Davies scuffed narrowly wide, and Tom Heaton denied Petrov from a tight angle and then dove low to his right to stop Spearing’s long-range effort.
The Robins goalkeeper produced an even better save to thwart Benik Afobe from close-range, but there was nothing he could do to prevent the equaliser, scored by Spearing just after the hour mark.
Kevin Davies played a perfectly-weighted slide-rule ball for the midfielder, who ran through the Bristol City defence and coolly placed the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
From that moment onwards, there was only one team going to win it.
As Wanderers went for the jugular, Eagles hammered another free-kick narrowly over the bar and Petrov saw a thunderous left-foot shot from outside the box tipped over by Heaton.
The Bulgarian was finally rewarded with the fifth and decisive goal of the afternoon seven minutes before the full-time whistle – and what a finish it was!
Substitute Chung-Yong Lee and Eagles combined to release Petrov, who got behind the Bristol City rearguard and curled a sumptuous finish into the corner of the net. The Reebok erupted – the comeback was complete.
Wanderers pressed for a fourth late on but they also had to guard against what would have been a heartbreaking equaliser.
That nearly arrived when Pearson was left unmarked deep into stoppage time, but the defender could only steer his close-range finish wide, with the goal gaping.
The final whistle was greeted with a huge cheer around the Reebok with the home fans acknowledging what an effort it had been from the Bolton boys.
Next up is a trip to Wolves where Wanderers will be looking for a third successive win at Molineux.
Wanderers: Bogdan, Mears, Mills, Ream, Warnock, Petrov (Pratley 89), Spearing, M Davies, Eagles, Afobe (Chung-Yong 80), K Davies (Subs not used: Lynch, Andrews, Ngog, Ricketts, Riley)
Bristol City: Heaton, Baldock, Woolford (Pitman 85), Pearson, Davies (Taylor 63), Adomah, Carey, Fontaine, Skuse, McManus, Foster (Subs not used: Gerken, Wilson, Bryan, Anderson, Morris)