Bristol dominated the early play but seemed unable to penetrate the London Irish half until they were awarded a penalty in the eighth minute.
Fly-half Jason Strange slotted the 30-metre kick neatly between the uprights and a second followed five minutes later from the 22.
London Irish then came back into the game and hooker David Paice squeezed through for a try which was converted by fly-half Riki Flutey,
But a couple of minutes later Paice turned bad guy as he came in to the rucks from an offside position and was sent to the sin bin by referee David Rose.
Bristol took advantage of the extra man, kicking the penalty to touch. Captain Matt Salter won the lineout ball and from the drive hooker Mark Regan scored.
Strange added the conversion from out wide on the right but was wide of the left upright with a 30-metre drop goal attempt from in front of the posts.
The visitors lost 36-year-old prop Neal Hatley, who has just signed a new contract for the 2006-07 season, with a leg injury as they trailed 13-7 at the break.
The Exiles started the second half well and scrum-half Paul Hodgson, playing against his former club, slipped the ball to Flutey to score the visitors’ second try by the posts – which he converted.
Strange saw the wind take a penalty attempt off target, before the visitors pinned Bristol back deep in their own half but the defence stood firm.
The home side conceded a penalty as the game went into the final quarter, but Flutey’s kick from close to the left touchline with the wind at his back went across the face of the posts.
Exiles skipper Mike Catt was held up over the line as the visitors continued to look to turn pressure in to points.
But from the five metre scrum Bristol pounced as the ball popped out the back and the home side cleared their line as they mounted another attack.
But errors led to another try for the Exiles as replacement second row Declan Danaher broke down the right before passing to outside centre Gonzalo Tiesi.
Tiesi went past full-back Vaughan Going with ease to score behind the posts, with Flutey adding the extras.
As the game went in to time added on, a strong spell of Bristol pressured ended with number eight Geraint Lewis crossing for a try which was converted by Strange, reducing the home side’s arrears to a solitary point.