The Town striker netted with his head, left foot and right foot to cap a memorable afternoon for him and Steve Cotterill’s hosts, who put the newly-promoted visitors to the sword in ruthless fashion.
Bowman clutched the match ball at full-time as his name echoed around Montgomery Waters Meadow. It was some contrast to a fortnight ago, when the striker felt Portman Road and finished the afternoon at Ipswich Hospital after frightening heart palpitations on the pitch.
The afternoon - surely one of the highlights of Cotterill’s reign - belonged to Bowman but he was not alone. There were supreme performances from Daniel Udoh, Shaun Whalley and Luke Leahy.
Udoh enjoyed one of his best performances in nearly 100 Town games, Whalley created two Bowman goals with fine assists and Leahy rounded off the rout with a late fourth.
But the contest was on a knife-edge midway through the second half. Bowman’s sixth-minute opener was cancelled out 13 minutes after half-time by Jack Iredale’s 30-yard missile.
Cambridge will argue, though, that the game swung on a decision halfway through the second half as referee Simon Mather showed U’s midfielder Adam May a straight red card for a dangerous lunge on substitute Josh Daniels.
Playing against 10 men can be tricky but Cotterill’s men had no such struggles, as Bowman bagged two more and Leahy put the gloss on a memorable afternoon at the Meadow, as Shrewsbury climbed to 20th and out of the League One drop zone.
Cambridge have proven hard to beat this season but flattered to deceive. They had bright sparks but were very much second-best in the first period. For the visitors it was just a fourth league defeat in 13 games this term.
For Town, while struggles on the road remain very much pertinent, their encouraging home form continues to flourish after clocking up a fourth home league win from eight.
Cotterill dropped centre-half Aaron Pierre as fellow stopper George Nurse returned from an ankle injury sustained seven days ago.
Pierre himself came back from an Achilles problem for the midweek defeat at Oxford and Cotterill mentioned on a couple of occasions he was unhappy with the defender’s display.
Town’s other change was a return for left-back-turned-central midfielder Luke Leahy, back in the side and into midfield, in place of Tom Bloxham.
Cotterill shuffled back to his usual three-man defence after using 4-3-3 at the Kassam on Tuesday.
Mark Bonner’s Cambridge arrived in Shropshire as the League One draw specialists so far this term.
The U’s had tied three games on the spin, including creditable points against Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday and had drawn the most games in the league so far - six from their opening 12 games.
Bonner’s side brought in winger Shilow Tracey, who spent time on loan at Shrewsbury under Cotterill last term, for another fellow former Town loanee Sam Smith. Evergreen creative star Wes Hoolahan, the former Republic of Ireland international, 39, also returned to the side.
With positive results on the road continuing to prove elusive, Town knew a fourth home league win of the season, after three from the first seven, would boost their case in climbing to safety.
And Cotterill’s men could hardly have started the game better. The first quarter was among the best Town have shown as an attacking force this season. Cambridge were simply powerless to deal with Udoh, Bowman and Co.
Shrews looked sharp right from the off and were a few inches from leading inside three minutes as Udoh nodded narrowly over from the middle of the box from an excellent Leahy cross.
Town were sharper than their visitors in almost every aspect and even though just a little over five minutes had elapsed, it was no surprise to see the home side score what was comfortably their earlier goal of the season.
A cross from the right was collected by Nathanael Ogbeta, who set the ball back smartly for Nurse, who steadied himself before he delivered a pinpoint cross for Bowman to crash in a towering header beyond the helpless Dimitar Mitov.
It was a header straight out of the old-fashioned No.9’s copybook and a fine way to mark a first Meadow goal.
Town tails were up after taking advantage of their promising start. The impressive and industrious returning Leahy thumped one over from 25 yards
Udoh typified his side’s start. The former AFC Telford man terrorised the Yellows’ midfield and defence.
On countless occasions he received the ball with his back to goal and showed brute strength and a soft touch to spin his marker expertly. His rampaging runs led numerous charges on the U’s backline, which creaked.
The visitors, however, provided a reminder that would not just be bystanders as former Town man Tracey flashed a rising first-time finish over from the edge of the box after David Davis’ insufficient clearance.
Cotterill’s men almost doubled their tally on 16 minutes and it would’ve been a lovely goal.
The busy Shaun Whalley showed typical enthusiasm and sharp feet to outfox Cambridge defenders on the left before rolling into Udoh, who spun his defender excellently before a low left-footed strike across Mitov’s goal was bound for the bottom corner albeit for the Bulgarian goalkeeper’s intervention.
Shrewsbury were well in charge and looked like they had far too much for the limited visitors.
The hosts’ other big chance before half hour came for Whalley but was created through an excellent Matt Pennington through ball down the inside right channel. Whalley was released in the box and his low strike from a narrow angle was parried away by the busy Mitov.
But that was to be the goalkeeper’s final action as, much after half hour, Mitov and Udoh came together heavily while bravely challenging a left-sided cross.
Both players lay prone in the six yard box as medical teams ran to the scene with concerned team-mates and supporters looking on.
Udoh moved first and had come out of the incident better off than the home keeper. Both were being treated after drawing blood.
There was rapturous applause and chants as the popular Town striker emerged groggily to his feet and was soon the recipient of a black bandage on his head.
Mitov was not so lucky. He remained prone for the best part of seven minutes while substitute keeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle warmed up and, indeed, Mitov was reluctantly replaced.
Guyana international McKenzie-Lyle, making his U’s league bow, was quickly tested, unsurprisingly, by Udoh, who clearly showed no ill-effects of the incident, after a strike from the edge of the box. Cotterill was frustrated as no yellow or blue home shirt followed up the keeper’s unconvincing parry.
Seven minutes of stoppage time coincided with Cambridge enjoying their first spell on top.
Veteran Hoolahan was at the heart of a couple of sharp moves knitted together, with Tracey also a bright spark.
The visitors forced a couple of set-pieces but Town, to their credit, defended well other than one loose piece of play from Nurse, from which Tracey was unable to pick out a team-mate.
Shrewsbury almost ended the first period by adding a timely second on the cusp of the interval.
An Elliott Bennett corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Leahy and a deflection looked to be looping into the far right corner before a bundling Ebanks-Landell - making his 100th Town appearance - helped the ball over the line.
Joy was quickly overruled, however, by the assistant’s prompt flag. Referee Simon Mather’s assistant flagged for an infringement, appearing to be an Ebanks-Landell handball. The skipper received a caution for his protests.
Shrewsbury led for the first time in any game this season and Cotterill’s men started the second half with similar vigour as the first.
Ogbeta set back for Leahy who sent a low cross tantalisingly wide across goal before Nurse stepped forward and unleashed a 30-yard rocket that swerved before keeper McKenzie-Lyle palmed away.
Pennington was the next Town man to trouble the goal in front of the away end, as the defender powered forward and guided a left-footed strike inches wide of the far post.
Like at the end of the first, Cambridge did manage to find a foothold of sorts. Mostly from the talented Hoolahan they began to ask questions of their hosts.
But they had created very little until, with 58 minutes on the cross, the ball was worked over to left-back Iredale some 30 yards out.
He stepped forward with purpose before, under little pressure, let fly a missile that arrowed into the flying Marko Marosi’s opposite top corner. Out of almost nowhere, a goal of real quality had hauled the Yellows level, much to the delight of their pocket of travelling fans.
Town lost their way a little for the next five or 10 minutes as Bonner’s men grew in confidence.
Ogbeta shot over for the hosts who tried to find a response but Cambridge came closest as big striker Joe Ironside was just unable to meet Hoolahan’s delivery.
Cotterill introduced Josh Daniels for Bennett with 25 minutes left and the winger had been on for just three minutes when he was the victim of a poor challenge from midfielder May.
The U’s man lunged into a reckless, two-footed challenge just into his own half near to the dugouts and left Daniels writhing in pain.
Referee Mather wasted no time in reaching for his pocket and flashed a straight red, to little real complaints from the visitors. Daniels took time to recover from the blow, but was able to shake off the ankle injury, albeit had to be withdrawn late with minutes to go.
Town’s task with 20 minutes left was to break down the 10-man Yellows and they did so expertly.
Whalley was released in a pocket of space midway through the Cambridge half. Town’s No.7 had runners ahead of him and picked the right ball, releasing Bowman into the left of the penalty area. The striker had McKenzie-Lyle rushing out but finished coolly with his left foot and into the corner.
That was the killer goal but Town weren’t finished by a long way.
With seven minutes left and Cambridge showing little sign of belief they could get level again, the hosts put clear daylight between the sides and secured the three points.
The irreplaceable Whalley was involved again. He linked with the excellent Udoh before finding Leahy outside the Yellows’ box, who slipped another fine pass into Bowman, again on the left of the box, who was again able to finish with devastating composure.
This time the former Exeter man checked on to his favoured right foot and sent a fine reverse finish into the left corner for the most perfect of trebles.
Cotterill’s Salop weren’t finished and put the hapless Cambridge to the sword.
Bowman turned from scorer to creator late on as the visitors struggled to keep the hosts at bay.
The striker showed more composure on the left corner of the box, to pull a pass back for Leahy to sweep emphatically into the near corner for a neat fourth on a glorious afternoon for Cotterill and Town.
There were some delightful performances all around, but this afternoon without doubt belonged to Bowman, who clutched the match ball from assistant Aaron Wilbraham at full-time, as his name echoed around the Meadow.
Shrewsbury Town (3-5-2):
Marosi; Pennington, Ebanks-Landell ©, Nurse; Bennett (Daniels, 65, Pyke, 87), Davis, Whalley (Bloxham, 84), Leahy, Ogbeta (Pierre, 76); Udoh, Bowman.
Subs not used: Burgoyne, Leshabela, Cosgrove.
Cambridge United (4-2-3-1):
Mitov (McKenzie-Lyle, 37); Williams, Jones, Masterson (Smith, 78), Iredale; Digby ©, May; Tracey (Knibbs, 90), Hoolahan, Brophy (Weir, 71); Ironside.
Subs not used: Dunk, Okedina, Worman.
Referee: Simon Mather