HABIB Beye’s first half dismissal neutered Rovers and saw them slump to defeat against relegation rivals Bristol City.
Beye was shown a red card on the half hour, just four minutes after Chris Wood had given the hosts the lead.
And from the resultant free kick, City turned the screw with Kalifa Cisse heading home Neil Kilkenny’s cross.
El Hadji Diouf gave Rovers hope 15 minutes from time when he sent a great looping over David James.
But the damage had already been done and despite Billy Sharp drawing a fantastic late save from David James, the Robins had a comfortable second half with the man advantage.
Both sides lined up with attacking 4-3-3 formations and the pace was predictably frantic from the off.
City enjoyed the better of the early play with pacy and tricky wide duo Albert Adomah and Yannick Bolasie surging forward at any given opportunity.
Adomah headed wide from a Cole Skuse cross, Bolasie curled an effort straight at David Button who later got down well to tip a Richard Foster shot from 30 yards wide of the near post, all in the space of the frantic opening four minutes.
Crosses troubled Rovers and they stood by watching as Adomah headed well wide from a Neil Kilkenny cross.
Rovers finally began to find their feet in the game around seven minutes and showed how dangerous they could be on the break when James Coppinger flicked into the path of Simon Gillett who unleashed a powerful effort at the near post with James getting down well to tip wide.
Coppinger was then involved in a clash and went down clutching his face.
He struggled from then on and was replaced by John Oster on 17 minutes.
Billy Sharp was causing problems for the City back line and easily held off Louis Carey before scuffing an effort across the face of the goal.
James Hayter missed a golden chance to give Rovers the lead on 25 minutes.
He seemed to be unprepared when El Hadji Diouf’s cross deflected to his feet and he could only scuff it straight at James.
And the miss was punished in the next attack as City took the lead.
Skuse sent a cross over from the right and Wood rose well for a simple header in at Button’s near post.
Within five minutes the game had slipped well out of Rovers’ hands.
Beye was shown the red card for a challenge on Skuse by the corner flag.
Though he won the ball, he left the ground in doing so and referee Graham showed no hesitation in pulling the card from his back pocket despite his assistant, three yards from the incident, signalling for a throw in.
And from the subsequent free kick, taken by Kilkenny, City doubled their advantage with Cisse heading home.
Adam Lockwood replaced Hayter soon after with Sharp occupying a lone striker role.
It meant that after the break, City controlled the vast majority of the possession and Rovers had nine men within 20 yards of their own goal whenever the hosts came forward.
The electric pace City demonstrated in the first half was understandably lowered as they enjoyed a great deal of time and space.
With a lack of pressing from 25 yards out, City mainly opted to shoot from distance with Richard Foster, Kilkenny and Wood all firing on goal.
But Rovers were not as dead and buried as they appeared and they gave themselves a lifeline in their first real attack of the half.
They broke away well and Sharp fed Gillett out wide and a cross came in with Diouf dropping back into space and sending an excellent header over James into the far corner.
It sparked Rovers into life in the last 15 minutes and Sharp almost drew them level with a rasping shot.
Sharp controlled superbly to beat his man and find space before striking for the top corner only for James to produce a superb diving save.
But City were happy to retain possession and see out the final few moments in comfort.
Rovers: Button, O’Connor, Hird, Beye, Spurr, Coppinger, Stock, Gillett, Hayter, Sharp, Diouf.
Bristol: James, Skuse, Carey, Nyatanga, Foster, Cisse, Kilkenny, Pearson, Adomah, Bolasie, Wood.