Andreas Weimann netted a hat-trick as Bristol City edged out Millwall 3-2 in a Sky Bet Championship thriller at Ashton Gate.
The home side went in front after seven minutes when Weimann latched on to a dreadful clearance from Bartosz Bialkowski and scooped the ball over the Millwall goalkeeper’s head from 25 yards out.
However, Tom Bradshaw escaped the attention of Ryley Towler to head home a Murray Wallace cross from close range in the 23rd minute, bringing the Lions level.
Towler was at fault again five minutes later, bringing down Benik Afobe from behind to concede a clear penalty that the striker coolly tucked away with a low finish.
Weimann equalised in the 73rd minute as he got in front of his marker to connect sweetly with Han-Noah Massengo’s chip into the box from the left.
And the experienced attacker celebrated his treble five minutes from time, firing home from eight yards out after an Alex Scott shot had been blocked on the line.
The goal was enough to both give Nigel Pearson only his fourth win in 21 home games as City boss and settle an entertaining contest.
Pearson named seven graduates from the club’s academy in his starting line-up, including 19-year-old centre-back Towler, who had been on loan at Grimsby.
Gary Rowett made one change from Millwall’s 1-0 victory at Coventry, with former Bristol loanee Afobe replacing the ill Mason Bennett up front.
Weimann’s 10th goal of the season gave City the perfect start, but they had scored early in their previous two home games – against Huddersfield and QPR – only to lose both fixtures.
Pearson’s men should have gone two up in the 21st minute when Antoine Semenyo broke onto a perfect through ball and saw his tame shot saved by Bialkowski.
It proved an expensive miss as Towler’s inexperience was exposed and Millwall took charge. Bradshaw’s goal meant he had scored for a fifth successive game.
Ayman Benarous volleyed over for City from just outside the box, but Millwall missed a good chance to double their lead before the break when Shaun Hutchinson headed straight at keeper Max O’Leary.
Pearson reacted to boos from home supporters by sending on Chris Martin and Massengo for the second half, in place of Benarous and Towler.
His side made a bright start, with Weimann’s 49th-minute shot bringing out a good save from Bialkowski. Matty James then appealed unsuccessfully for a handball inside the box by Jake Cooper.
Massengo had a low drive saved by the diving Bialkowski before Weimann’s opportunism turned the game around and left Millwall with nothing to show for their spirited performance.
City have a habit of conceding late goals this season, but they protected their lead without O’Leary having to make a save.
Weimann was hugged by Pearson as he left the pitch clutching the match ball.
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