Bristol will avoid relegation from the Aviva Premiership if Doncaster or Ealing Trailfinders win this season's Championship title.
The west country club are resigned to finishing bottom of the Premiership, standing 12 points behind 11th-placed Worcester with just two games left.
But there is an outside chance they could yet survive after a Championship announcement that both Doncaster and Ealing did not apply for a required independent audit that assesses clubs' promotion eligibility to the Premiership.
London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie, though, applied and met minimum standards criteria, with one of them widely expected to take the Championship crown next month and therefore secure promotion.
Irish, relegated from the Premiership last term, face Doncaster in the two-legged Championship play-offs, while Yorkshire Carnegie meet Ealing. The final is also over two games on May 17 and May 24.
A statement released by the Championship, read: "The Rugby Football Union has considered the findings of an independent audit report of the Greene King IPA Championship semi-finalists assessing their eligibility for promotion to the Aviva Premiership next season.
"London Irish and Yorkshire Carnegie have met the minimum standards criteria to the satisfaction of the RFU based on the following stadia: Madejski Stadium [London Irish] and Headingly Carnegie (Yorkshire Carnegie).
"Ealing Trailfinders and Doncaster Knights did not apply for the audit and therefore cannot be promoted to the Aviva Premiership."
Doncaster outlined their stance in a joint statement posted on the official club website from Knights president Tony De Mulder and chief executive David Ryall.
"Having previously looked at promotion, we feel it is simply unaffordable and out of our reach in the current structure and financial arrangement for professional rugby union in England," they said.
"Our preference now is to continue to play expansive and winning rugby in the Championship, rather than find ourselves bereft of the time and resources needed to construct a squad fit for Premiership competition where history has shown that the promoted side rarely prosper or survive.
"The club's priority has to be to guarantee the continuity and employment of our current squad, the majority of whom have re-signed for next season and beyond.
"English professional rugby union is currently in a state of flux, and there is much to be debated about the future of both the Championship and the Premiership.
"If and when the future of professional rugby union in England becomes clear, then the ambition of Doncaster Rugby Club remains as fervent as ever, but we will not cripple ourselves chasing something that is not feasible at this time.
"We owe it to our loyal supporters and players to continue to strive for success both on and off the field, and believe this is more likely when competing at the top of the Championship than at the bottom of the Premiership."