They led 2-1 after an hour and, even pegged back, were awarded an extremely soft penalty with 10 minutes to go for a priceless winner in terms of the manager’s future.
But, despite all of that, Albion lost 3-2. Michael Obafemi, Swansea’s substitute striker, pounced and netted in the 89th minute. It leaves Bruce’s side still down in 21st, still outside the relegation zone on goal difference after one win from 11 league games.
How long can Albion afford to let this continue?
Bruce can and would have few complaints if the club acted on the call of a large majority of the fanbase and relieved him of his duties at The Hawthorns.
The results and Championship table after 11 games – with just a single victory – continue to look alarming.
Performance levels are inconsistent at best. And when performances have been OK-to-good, wins have not followed. Whenever Albion play OK or worse, they are beaten.
Swansea on Saturday was a perfect example. This was a game they should never have lost. But that softness and inability to grind out a positive result came to the fore once more.
It could have been different had Karlan Grant held his nerve to convert the penalty on 80 minutes, following goals from Jake Livermore and Grady Diangana to give the hosts a chance. But then it was barely a penalty, so Swansea will feel justice was served.
Grant’s spot-kick was meek. It was tame. Not for the first time, in fact for the third time under Bruce, Grant missed from 12 yards.
Precious few of the players are doing themselves justice at the moment. Like the manager, most are underperforming, some are making repetitive and costly errors.
A major issue comes between the sticks for Albion. David Button produced a howler for Matthew Sorinola’s early opener, the eighth time in 11 Albion have gone behind in the league and the sixth occasion they have trailed inside 15 minutes.
Button flapped a corner leaving Sorinola a gaping net to find.
Bruce has so far stood firm in his belief of Button, 33, and refused to change his goalkeeper. Button has struggled for a lot of the campaign. He has not been at fault for every goal conceded but his shot-saving ratio is poor and the commandment of his box has been so too.
Albion and Button have just one clean sheet (goalless home Cardiff draw) in 11 league games.
Perhaps Bruce believes back-up keeper Alex Palmer is not the answer. It remains to be seen if Button continues at Deepdale on Wednesday night.
The fault does not lay solely with him. The back four has been switched around but continues to fail, as has the midfield, certainly on Saturday, where a partnership of debutant Tom Rogic – a talent but visibly way off the pace and lasted just an hour – did not work alongside the anonymous John Swift.
A grim, nightmarish 90 minutes against the visitors from south Wales was an afternoon where The Hawthorns crowd really turned and let their anger be known.
Loud and fierce jeers at both half-time – with Albion 1-0 down – and then again at full-time, which followed cutting cries of “sacked in the morning” from Baggies fans to their own manager.
That chant is usually reserved for irony from opposition supporters. This felt telling.
Managers seldom come back and recover once their own supporters have turned against them to that extent.
This was the start of a pivotal and defining week and run of games for Bruce.
After an improved display in drawing at Norwich a fortnight ago the manager was given time following the international break to change the club’s fortunes, to turn the many draws into wins and change the picture of the league table, the season and his tenure.
Swansea at home, Preston away and Luton at home, with respect to those sides, is a kind enough run of fixtures – not that Albion have had joy against teams they should beaten this season.
And the question remains when will Albion act? Bruce remained positive after the latest defeat, he believed his side deserved more from the performance and was scratching his head at how they turned a victory into a draw and then defeat. But he is experienced enough to know how things are.
It was interesting to hear the boss discuss the club’s continued malaise over the last couple of years, he even referenced the 10-game unbeaten run to start Valerien Ismael’s tenure – which ironically ended exactly a year ago. Bruce knows, and understands, why the Baggies fans are truly fed up.
It is a key time for the club’s board, the controversial and disliked ownership of Guochuan Lai, and chief executive Ron Gourlay – Bruce’s appointer back in February.
Who has the say? Gourlay calls shots on football matters but the owner may decide to pull rank. Bruce said no contact on his future had taken place.
Only wins will keep it that way.