WATFORD blew their chance to go second in the npower Championship table as the Hornets put in a substantially below-par performance at Ashton Gate.
Greg Cunningham got lucky as he handed the hosts the lead with a mis-hit cross before Paul Anderson stabbed home the killer second after the break.
Hornet’s Head Coach Gianfranco Zola opted to, controversially, make six changes to the side which beat Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Lloyd Doyley, Marco Cassetti, Nathaniel Chalobah, Cristian Battocchio, Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra all dropped out.
In came Fitz Hall, Sean Murray, John Eustace, Jonathan Hogg, Alex Geijo and Fernando Forestieri.
Sean O`Driscoll made two changes; Neil Kilkenny and Jon Stead replaced by Stephen Pearson and Steven Davies.
The game started slowly and it took until the 20th minute for either side to conjure up a notable opportunity with Bristol City defender Liam Fontaine denied a header by a smart save from Manuel Almunia.
Deputy strike duo Forestieri and Geijo combined in the 26th minute with the former`s mazy run ending in a cross for the latter who could only nod wide from a good position.
Almen Abdi had earlier gone close with an effort but ought to have done better with a scooped strike.
Two minutes before the break Cunningham handed the Robins the lead with a total fluke of a goal.
The left-back aimed a cross into the penalty area which failed to pick out a team-mate. Caught in no-man`s land, Manuel Almunia left the cross, which ended up nestling in the back of his net to hand the hosts the lead.
Hogg had the Hornet`s first decent chance of the second period, shooting from distance for Tom Heaton to fumble, unfortunately nobody was following in to take advantage of the slip.
Sam Baldock should have doubled City`s lead just before the hour when he beat Hall for pace and raced on before shooting comfortably over inside the penalty area.
With 25 minutes left to play winger Anderson added a second for O`Driscoll`s side when he stabbed home from substitute Marvin Elliott`s knockdown following a corner.
So, shock, horror. We`re not infallible. We had to come back down to earth at some point and this was that point. O`Driscoll has tightened Bristol City up and had a game plan which worked very effectively against Zola`s side.
Whether or not the six changes made by Zola had any impact is neither here nor there; there is plenty of strength in depth in this squad and the likes of Fitz Hall, Jonathan Hogg and Fernando Forestieri had been regulars until a few weeks ago.
To even be in the position where we could have gone second is testament to Zola and the players for what has been a fantastic season of overachievement to date. We have been spoiled in recent months and sometimes a little bit of perspective doesn`t hurt.
Bristol City: Heaton; Moloney, Carey, Fontaine, Cunningham (Nyatanga); Anderson Kelly, Skuse (c) (Elliott), Pearson; Baldock & Davies (Stead).
Subs not used: Foster,Wilson, Burns & Gerken (GK).
Watford: Almunia; Nosworthy, Hall, Ekstrand; Murray (Deeney), Abdi, Eustace (c) (Chalobah), Hogg, Pudil; Forestieri & Geijo (Vydra).
Subs not used: Yeates, Cassetti, Battocchio & Bond (GK).
Attendance: 13 586.
Referee: Mr C Berry.