Director of rugby Andy Robinson admits Bristol face a "huge challenge" after leaving the first leg of their Championship play-off final against London Welsh with a 19-point deficit.
The West Country side, who finished top of the Championship table in regular season, conceded three tries as they slumped to a 27-8 defeat, which also saw them lose Wales international Ryan Jones and scrum-half Luke Baldwin to injury.
Justin Burnell's Exiles head into the second leg as favourites as their bid for an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership continues after Nathan Trevett, Nick Scott and Carl Kirwan all raced in tries at the Kassam Stadium.
However, despite Bristol's large arrears, Robinson believes they got off lightly given the strength of the Exiles in Oxford but understands they have work to do.
"For us to be only 19 points down, at one stage it looked like it was going to be a lot more but we managed to stem the tide in the last 20 minutes," he told Sky Sports.
"Apart from that first five minutes where I thought we started well, they completely outplayed us and played the conditions well and unfortunately scored a couple of really good tries.
"It's a huge challenge, but that's where we are. There's another game to go and we have to prepare well this week, we have a couple of sore bodies, but you have to give credit to London Welsh."
Marco Mama's try shot the visitors in front in the opening five minutes before Welsh raced to a 12-point lead at the break.
Former Wales captain Jones was stretched off on half-an-hour with a bad ankle injury and Baldwin quickly followed, but Robinson refused to make excuses for his side's performance.
"Injuries obviously have an effect on where you're going but we have quality players coming off the bench," he claimed.
"We're under big pressure now, we knew that we needed a performance here, we haven't performed as well as we wanted to.
"London Welsh have performed outstandingly well and deserve the credit for what they have achieved in this game."
Meanwhile, London Welsh coach Justin Burnell was "over the moon" with the 19-point advantage but accepted the tie was far from finished.
"We know Bristol are very capable of scoring a lot of points," he said.
"It will be a test of their attack against our defence so there is still a long way to go."
Gordon Ross converted all three tries and kicked two penalties, but Burnell believes the Exiles should have claimed even more points with the visitors playing out the last 10 minutes with 14 men following Nick Koster's yellow card.
"We should be going there 26 or 27 points in front," he added.
"I'm disappointed we didn't kill them off as Nick Scott butchered a late chance when I thought he was under the posts."
You can watch the second leg live on Sky Sports 1HD from 7:30pm on June 4