Burnley successfully avenged last month’s league defeat at the Riverside with a 2-1 FA Cup victory over Championship leaders Middlesbrough.
Despite being outplayed for large periods of the game, Burnley inflicted Boro’s first defeat since Everton won a Capital One Cup quarter-final on Teesside on December 1 thanks to goals from Rouwen Hennings and Stephen Ward.
Boro claimed the lead through Diego Fabbrini’s first-half effort, but were unable to make the most of a host of chances, with Adam Forshaw’s second-half headed miss proving especially costly.
With his side sitting at the top of the Championship, it was hardly a surprise to see Aitor Karanka make seven changes in order to protect some of his leading names ahead of next week’s league games with Brentford and Bristol City.
However, with the likes of Forshaw, David Nugent and Fabbrini returning to the fray, there was still plenty of quality in the home side’s ranks, and they duly dominated the whole of the first half.
Fabbrini and Carlos de Pena both drew routine early saves from Tom Heaton, but the Burnley goalkeeper should have been beaten when Nugent galloped clear midway through the opening period.
Nugent successfully latched on to Fernando Amorebieta’s looped header over the Burnley defence, but despite enjoying a clear run on goal, the former England international lashed a wasteful effort straight at Heaton.
His blushes were spared somewhat when Boro finally claimed the lead nine minutes before the interval, with his blocked shot helping to set up Fabbrini’s opener.
George Friend forced a superb save from Heaton when he drilled in the loose ball, and Fabbrini reacted quickest to stab home the second rebound.
Burnley had offered nothing as an attacking force at that stage, but the visitors claimed a surprise equaliser in first-half stoppage time as Boro’s much-vaunted backline unexpectedly switched off.
Sam Vokes swung over an inviting cross from the right, and Hennings found himself completely unmarked as he slid home from the edge of the six-yard box.
The goal was completely against the run of play, but it persuaded Burnley to throw more men forward and the game became a much more even contest after the break.
Boro continued to create the better chances though, and Heaton produced an excellent save on the hour mark, hurling himself to his right to keep out Albert Adomah’s angled drive.
The hosts missed a glorious opportunity to reclaim the lead when Forshaw headed Adomah’s cross wide of the target even though he was completely unmarked 10 yards out, and Burnley punished their profligacy when they scored against the run of play for a second time with 18 minutes left.
George Boyd’s initial effort from a corner was blocked, but Ward swivelled adroitly to hook a superb first-time volley past Tomas Mejias.
Aitor Karanka said: “I’m really disappointed because I never like to lose, especially in a game that we should have won by four, five or six goals because we had a lot of chances.
“That is what happens when you play and lose your concentration though. When you play in the way that we played the second half, that is what happens. When you lose your concentration, you make mistakes in the way that we did.
“If you do that, it is normal that this happens. For that reason, we have lost the game. I only hope that it is a game that helps us learn for the future.”