A memorable strike from substitute Albert Adomah set Bristol City on their way to a vital three points to move them off the foot of the npower Championship table, and dented Boro’s promotion hopes in the process.
The Ghanian found the top corner from 18 yards before Steven Davies added a second shortly after the break as City continued their unbeaten run at Ashton Gate since Sean O’Driscoll took charge.
Boro, without a win on their travels since early December, struggled to create chances throughout as they slipped further behind the play-off places.
Tony Mowbray believes he needs to lift Middlesbrough psychologically to get them back in the npower Championship promotion picture.
A second away defeat to struggling opponents in the space of four days, 2-0 at Bristol City, continued the club’s slump since the New Year.
Mowbray said: “I have to put a positive spin on our position because if we were just off the play-off places having been mid-table all season we would be happy enough.
“Because we have fallen away from the top of the table since the New Year, in a similar way to last season, there is a lot of negativity and I have to turn that around.
“Conceding two late goals at Huddersfield in midweek hit the players hard and it took a couple of days to recover. But we changed formation from that game and started this one in control.
“Sammy Ameobi was ruled out with a hamstring problem and we missed him. We must have made 500 or 600 passes without getting a meaningful strike on goal.”
O’Driscoll was forced into two changes with Davies and Neil Kilkenny coming into the side and the latter was involved in the first real chance after 10 minutes. Marvin Elliott teed up the Australian midfielder but Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele kept out his curling effort from distance as the rock-bottom Robins started brightly.
The visitors were next to try their luck with a long range shot but Tom Heaton, who has kept back-to-back clean sheets, was not troubled by Marvin Emnes’ ambitious drilled effort.
Since returning from the African Nations Cup, Adomah’s opportunities had been limited to late cameos but O’Driscoll but after Jon Stead picked up a knock the Ghana international was thrown into the fray.
It was his fellow attacker Davies who was involved in the next two chances, first the former Derby striker hit the wall with a 25-yard free-kick and a minute later his follow was comfortable for Steele.
They did find a way past the Boro keeper just after the half hour mark though with one of the best goals the strugglers have scored this season.
Kilkenny’s raking 40-yard pass found Adomah and after taking on George Friend he cut inside and curled the ball into the top corner via the inside of the post for his fifth goal of the season.
Tony Mowbray’s men, looking to close the two-point gap between themselves and the play-off places, did carve out a chance before the break but former Bristol Rovers man Mustapha Carayol fired over the crossbar.
And on the stroke of half-time City missed a great chance to double their lead when Elliott headed over the bar.
But it only took seven second-half minutes for the Robins to do just that when Davies was slipped in by Pearson after a quickly taken free-kick and he lashed the ball home from an angle to delight the Ashton Gate faithful.
Mowbray responded almost instantly, introducing Curtis Main for Emnes, as their hopes of a first away win of 2013 continued to fade.
And Main took just three minutes to threaten but his right-footed shot was blocked by Kilkenny.
At the other end the City supporters were furious that they were not awarded a penalty when they felt Davies’ shot hit Rhys Williams’ hand inside the box.
Adomah was continuing to shine for City and he carved out a 74th-minute chance for Elliott but the midfielder drilled a first-time effort wide. And then a minute later only the fingertips of Steele denied Davies his second of the afternoon after he went one-on-one with the keeper.
Steele continued to be in the thick of the action, denying Adomah as the winger looked to race around him as Boro failed to pick up three points on the road yet again.