Scrum-half Hodgson’s efforts the difference between two committed, if limited, sides. Barry Everitt added 14 points with his boots as the Exiles did enough to end a run of six home league defeats stretching back 10 months.
Bristol made them sweat profusely though, especially when Samoa wing Brian Lima powered over for a try eight minutes from time.
Fly-half Jason Strange’s conversion – he finished with 17 points – kept up the pressure, but the Welshman’s missed 48-metre penalty deep into injury time enabled Irish to hold on.
Lima, nicknamed “The Chiropractor” for his tough-tackling style, needed only 14 minutes to leave a mark on Irish.
Exiles wing Scott Staniforth finished second-best following a collision between the pair. Although he bravely tried to continue, Staniforth’s inevitable departure meant a midfield reshuffle, with centre Rodd Penney moving wide and replacement centre James Storey joining the action.
Irish were 6-3 down as Staniforth departed, courtesy of Strange’s penalty double, but Everitt quickly tied things up when he added a drop-goal to an earlier penalty.
Bristol threatened through their forwards, yet Irish fancied their chances by spinning possession wide, and such adventure reaped its reward on 28 minutes.
Captain Mike Catt rifled out a long pass inside his 22, and Irish had the pace and precision to finish off a superb 80-metre move in style, with number eight Phil Murphy and wing Justin Bishop combining cleverly before Hodgson sprinted clear.
Hodgson, inevitably fired up against his former club, struck again five minutes later, punishing a chronic concentration lapse by Bristol.
There was no apparent threat at a ruck 20 metres from Bristol’s line, but Hodgson capitalised on lazy defensive work to gather his own kick and touch down unopposed, although referee Roy Maybank missed any number of technical infringements leading up to Hodgson’s opportunist effort.
Everitt’s conversion increased the lead to 18-6, leaving Bristol with an uphill struggle as half-time approached.
Strange completed his penalty hat-trick, but Everitt ended the half by landing a 40-metre penalty and restoring a 12-point advantage.
Bristol had to make their presence felt on the scoreboard, with Irish threatening to get away from them, and a fourth Strange penalty narrowed the gap before Exiles back-row star Olivier Magne was sin-binned for elbowing Contepomi.
Irish were fortunate to escape further sanctions when Bristol skipper Matt Salter was dangerously tipped out of a lineout just three minutes later, but Strange’s fifth penalty further cut the deficit.
Bristol’s resilience and determination, qualities that helped them grind out victories over Bath and Newcastle on their return to the top flight, posed Irish plenty of problems especially while Magne sat out the action.
Everitt’s third penalty though, a superb 50-metre effort, gave Irish breathing space, until Lima struck and ensured an unexpectedly fraught few closing minutes for the home side before they could celebrate a second league win of the campaign.