But if ever a game was to epitomise the cliche of a game of two halves, this was it.
The first half was possibly the quietest and most uneventful scene at the KC Stadium all season, though there was a scare for City in the fifth minute when a Bristol shot was hooked off the line by Dawson.
On the half hour mark, Stuart Green shot well wide, before there was an injury to the referee which saw him replaced by the fourth official.
Rovers' Lee Thorpe showed signs of petulance throughout in his clashes with Dawson, throwing the ball at him on one occasion. The referee had words and it was not long into the second half before he was taken off.
After 39 minutes Danny Allsopp had a shot hooked off the line but the referee had already seen a foul on the keeper, and there was more disappointment for Allsopp in 43rd minute when he had the ball in the net but his celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
Two minutes later Adam Barrett went down injured when his own keeper smacked him around the head while trying to throw the ball out. Barrett recovered, but had stern words with Kevin Miller - after squirting him in the face with his water bottle.
Substitute Jason Price finally brought things to life in the 58th minute when he nodded in Green's corner at the far post.
Barely two minutes later Damien Delaney made it two with a superbly taken goal from just inside the area on the left hand side after being played in by Jamie Forrester.
After 73 minutes City went three up through a brilliant solo goal from Stuart Elliott, who pounced on a loose ball easily 25 yards out, and the ball flew into the back of the net, meaning the party could begin in earnest and Mexican waves went around the ground.
Unfortunately, Bristol were just making up the numbers but their fans were good natured and applauded by City fans who at last were to have their day after 19 long years.