Bristol City briefly climbed to the summit of the Championship table by ending Cardiff City's unbeaten start.
Stephen Pearson and Martyn Woolford gave the hosts a deserved half-time lead after a dominant first half.
Joe Mason's header gave Cardiff hope, but a slick counter attack saw Woolford restore the two-goal advantage.
Cardiff again replied through Heidar Helguson only for debutant Sam Baldock to finally put the result beyond doubt with three minutes remaining.
Bristol City's final two goals epitomised the difference between the two sides as they broke with pace and purpose to rip open Cardiff's defence.
The visitors, who offered virtually nothing in the first half of a match which kicked off before the day's other Championship fixtures, sorely missed Craig Bellamy's penetration as the starting front three of Helguson, debutant Tommy Smith and Don Cowie failed to make any impact.
Mason's introduction and a change of formation at half-time transformed Cardiff, giving manager Malky Mackay food for thought as he considers how best to mould a new-look side.
But there were plenty of positives for Robins manager Derek McInnes as his side scored four goals for a successive Championship match to secure only a second win over Cardiff in the last 10 league meetings.
Bristol City's pressure gradually grew as the first half wore on, with the pacey Albert Adomah exploiting the space vacated by Cardiff's advancing full-backs.
Adomah wasted the first clear chance when he shot wide and then Ryan Taylor's header found the side netting.
But the opener was a complete gift as Aron Gunnarsson's misplaced pass deep in his own half exposed the Cardiff defence.
Adomah penetrated before his cut-back found Pearson, who arced the ball into the bottom-left corner from the just inside the penalty area.
The outstanding Jonathan Stead was the next architect as more sloppy Cardiff play led to the home side's second on the stroke of half-time.
The rangy striker used his frame to protect the ball and the on-rushing Woolford passed the ball past Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall.
Mackay responded to his side's lacklustre show by replacing Gunnarsson with Mason, and the change bore immediate dividends as the substitute found space in a crowded six-yard box to head home after Peter Whittingham's corner.
The Bluebirds, back in their more familiar blue shirts, immediately found more purpose and energy, with Mason's direct running finally testing the home defenders.
Whittingham, whose long-range efforts were all Cardiff managed in the first half, went close with another shot after Smith had broken through.
But the Robins responded to the warning signs with a textbook counter attack to score their third.
The Cardiff defence, which included debutant Matthew Connolly in Ben Turner's absence with injury, was ripped apart down the middle and Woolford had a simple task to score after Baldock's shot rebounded off the post.
Helguson, scoring his first league goal since joining Cardiff from Queens Park Rangers, ensured a tense final minutes when he slotted through Tom Heaton's legs.
But the home nerves were calmed five minutes later when Baldock, a 64th-minute substitute, ensured a scoring debut when he beat Marshall after being played through the heart of the static Cardiff defence.
Bristol City manager Derek McInnes:
"We are getting goals from the middle of the park, which we didn't do last season and now have some great options up front.
"With Sam [Baldock] and Steve [Davies] on board, we have a lot of different strikers, who pose threats in various ways. All the clubs I have been at, who were successful, had good strength in depth when it came to strikers.
"It is very early days, but after last season I'm delighted to be challenging at the right end of the table even at this stage of the campaign."
Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay:
"Without taking anything away from Bristol's performance, we conceded some bad goals.
"We gave the ball away in poor areas, which is not like us. We started the season defensively strong, but today we didn't keep to that standard.
"If you gift possession to good teams they are going to punish you. We will look at the DVD and identify where we could have done a lot better."
- 01 Heaton
- 03 Wilson
- 04 Fontaine
- 06 Carey
- 17 Cunningham
- 11 Woolford
- 14 Skuse
- 15 Pearson
- 27 Adomah (Davies - 84' )
- 09 Stead (Baldock - 64' )
- 18 Taylor (Elliott - 74' )
- 32 Carey
- 02 Foster
- 12 Wilson
- 20 Morris
- 25 Elliott
- 07 Baldock
- 16 Davies
- 01 Marshall
- 02 McNaughton
- 03 Taylor
- 05 Hudson
- 12 Connolly
- 07 Whittingham
- 08 Cowie
- 17 Gunnarsson (Mason - 46' )
- 18 Mutch (Ralls - 80' )
- 14 Smith (Velikonja - 75' Booked )
- 22 Helguson
- 32 Lewis
- 31 Nugent
- 04 Kiss
- 21 Ralls
- 09 Velikonja
- 10 Earnshaw
- 20 Mason
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.90:00 +3:03
Stephen Pearson takes the direct free kick.90:00 +3:03 Booking
Booking Etien Velikonja is given a yellow card.90:00 +2:44
Foul by Etien Velikonja on Martyn Woolford, free kick awarded.90:00 +2:11
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Heidar Helguson by Louis Carey. Free kick taken by Andrew Taylor.90:00 +1:26
Short corner worked by Martyn Woolford.88:16
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Joe Mason by Marvin Elliott. Peter Whittingham restarts play with the free kick.86:30
Greg Cunningham provided the assist for the goal.86:30 Goal scored
Goal! - Sam Baldock - Bristol C 4 - 2 Cardiff Sam Baldock grabs a goal from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Bristol City 4-2 Cardiff.84:49
Joe Mason challenges Cole Skuse unfairly and gives away a free kick. Tom Heaton restarts play with the free kick.83:24 Substitution
Substitution Albert Adomah goes off and Steven Davies comes on.81:21
Assist by Kevin McNaughton.81:21 Goal scored
Goal! - Heidar Helguson - Bristol C 3 - 2 Cardiff Heidar Helguson finds the back of the net with a goal from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Bristol City 3-2 Cardiff.79:29 Substitution
Substitution Joe Ralls replaces Jordon Mutch.78:28
Unfair challenge on Joe Mason by Stephen Pearson results in a free kick. Strike on goal comes in from Peter Whittingham from the free kick.74:41 Substitution
Substitution Etien Velikonja on for Tommy Smith.73:29 Substitution
Substitution Marvin Elliott is brought on as a substitute for Ryan Taylor.72:50
Peter Whittingham takes the inswinging corner, Close range headed effort by Jordon Mutch misses to the right of the target.72:41
Tommy Smith produces a cross, blocked by Greg Cunningham.71:48
Jordon Mutch challenges Albert Adomah unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Martyn Woolford.
Assist on the goal came from Sam Baldock.69:29 Goal scored
Goal! - Martyn Woolford - Bristol C 3 - 1 Cardiff Martyn Woolford finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Bristol City 3-1 Cardiff.69:18
Sam Baldock has an effort at goal from deep inside the box hitting the post.68:47
Effort from inside the area by Peter Whittingham misses to the right of the goal.67:36
Shot from outside the area by Albert Adomah misses to the left of the target.66:56
Greg Cunningham takes the inswinging corner, Kevin McNaughton makes a clearance.66:49
A cross is delivered by Sam Baldock, clearance made by Mark Hudson.66:00
Effort on goal by Peter Whittingham from a long way out goes over the bar.64:07
Sam Baldock produces a left-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide left of the goal.63:08 Substitution
Substitution Jon Stead leaves the field to be replaced by Sam Baldock.62:43
Corner taken by Peter Whittingham played to the near post, Jon Stead manages to make a clearance.60:37
Corner taken by Peter Whittingham, Mark Hudson takes a shot. Save by Tom Heaton.56:39
The assist for the goal came from Heidar Helguson.56:39 Goal scored
Goal! - Joe Mason - Bristol C 2 - 1 Cardiff Joe Mason finds the back of the net with a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Bristol City 2-1 Cardiff.56:09
Corner taken left-footed by Peter Whittingham.56:01
Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Don Cowie, Greg Cunningham manages to make a clearance.55:43
Joe Mason takes a shot. Louis Carey gets a block in.55:09
Liam Fontaine concedes a free kick for a foul on Tommy Smith. Free kick taken by Kevin McNaughton.54:34
Greg Cunningham fouled by Joe Mason, the ref awards a free kick. Tom Heaton takes the free kick.52:36
Corner taken right-footed by Mark Wilson from the left by-line, Close range headed effort by Liam Fontaine misses to the right of the target.52:20
Albert Adomah produces a cross, clearance made by Matthew Connolly.51:05
The referee blows for offside. Tom Heaton takes the indirect free kick.47:39
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Heidar Helguson by Liam Fontaine. Don Cowie crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance by Liam Fontaine.46:47
Albert Adomah takes a shot. Matthew Connolly gets a block in.45:27
Liam Fontaine gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Heidar Helguson. Free kick crossed left-footed by Peter Whittingham from left channel, clearance by Ryan Taylor.45:01
The second half kicks off.45:01 Substitution
Substitution Joe Mason joins the action as a substitute, replacing Aron Gunnarsson.45:00 +1:51 Half time
Half Time The referee calls an end to the first half.45:00 +0:33
Jon Stead provided the assist for the goal.45:00 +0:33 Goal scored
Goal! - Martyn Woolford - Bristol C 2 - 0 Cardiff A goal is scored by Martyn Woolford from inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Bristol City 2-0 Cardiff.41:11
Free kick awarded for a foul by Louis Carey on Heidar Helguson. Free kick taken by Andrew Taylor.38:29
Cole Skuse gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Tommy Smith. David Marshall takes the free kick.38:09
Corner taken by Albert Adomah from the left by-line, save made by David Marshall.37:36
Jon Stead takes a shot. Blocked by Kevin McNaughton.36:27
Corner from the right by-line taken by Peter Whittingham, Aron Gunnarsson takes a shot.36:09
Peter Whittingham has an effort at goal from 25 yards. Cole Skuse gets a block in.34:36
Greg Cunningham fouled by Tommy Smith, the ref awards a free kick. Tom Heaton restarts play with the free kick.31:48
Assist on the goal came from Albert Adomah.31:48 Goal scored
Goal! - Stephen Pearson - Bristol C 1 - 0 Cardiff A goal is scored by Stephen Pearson from the edge of the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Bristol City 1-0 Cardiff.28:32
Effort on goal by Albert Adomah from outside the penalty box goes harmlessly over the bar.24:51
Ryan Taylor has a headed effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.21:47
Corner taken by Martyn Woolford. A cross is delivered by Martyn Woolford, clearance by Heidar Helguson.21:40
Centre by Ryan Taylor, blocked by Andrew Taylor.18:56
Tommy Smith takes a shot. Mark Wilson gets a block in.16:24
The ball is sent over by Kevin McNaughton, Tom Heaton makes a save.15:17
Effort from inside the area by Albert Adomah misses to the left of the goal.13:11
Peter Whittingham takes a shot. Save made by Tom Heaton.12:04
Jon Stead is caught offside. David Marshall restarts play with the free kick.7:30
Martyn Woolford challenges Jordon Mutch unfairly and gives away a free kick. Peter Whittingham sends in a cross, Shot from deep inside the area by Mark Hudson clears the crossbar.6:29
Foul by Jon Stead on Matthew Connolly, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by David Marshall.6:04
Unfair challenge on Ryan Taylor by Matthew Connolly results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Albert Adomah.5:48
Tommy Smith takes a shot. Tom Heaton makes a save.3:02
Liam Fontaine crosses the ball, save made by David Marshall.2:19
Free kick awarded for a foul by Mark Hudson on Jon Stead. Martyn Woolford takes the free kick.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to start the match.
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