Wales international Ryan Jones proved his leadership credentials on his Bristol debut, says coach Sean Holley.
With Bristol losing 11-3 at half-time in the Championship semi-final play-off against Rotherham, ex-Ospreys forward Jones replaced Ruki Tipuna as captain.
And the 75-cap Welshman inspired his side to a 22-11 win - 39-25 on aggregate - to send them to the final.
"I had no qualms in turning to Wales' most-capped captain," Holley told BBC Points West.
Bristol went into the second leg with a slender three-point advantage and, although Nicky Robinson kicked the visitors ahead, Rotherham responded through Michael Keating's try and two Juan Pablo Socino penalties.
And, with Marco Mama in the sin-bin at half-time, director of rugby Andy Robinson was forced to make changes, Luke Baldwin and Ross Johnston coming on for Tipuna and Rhys Lawrence.
Jones, who brought to an end his 10-year spell with Ospreys earlier this month, was then handed the armband and it made the difference, as the 33-year-old's side ran in 19 unanswered points to claim victory at Abbeydale.
"Ruki wasn't having it all his own way and it was a tough call, to change your nine and your hooker at half-time," continued Holley.
"When you have a good squad you have to rely on those players.
"Ryan did fantastically well. He's very good in those situations. I was shouting that we are going for the posts and he's reinforcing that on the field. That's why we signed him."
It is the first time Bristol have reached the final since their 2009-10 defeat by Exeter Chiefs and they will now face London Welsh over two legs.
And, after five years outside the Premiership, Holley is aware of what the final means to the club.
"We live it everyday and it's why me and Andy are here," he added. "We feel Bristol deserve to be in the top league. It's been our aim from the start.
"The last two weeks have been really tough and now it comes down to two games.
"We're delighted to be there. It doesn't matter who we play now, it will be a tough two games."