Strikes from Marvin Emnes and Lukas Jutkiewicz helped 10-man Middlesbrough to their first Championship victory of 2012.
Tony Mowbray’s men had fallen out of the play-off positions after a winless run of six league matches stretching back to Boxing Day, but victory over beleaguered Nottingham Forest gave them a vital three points.
Boro largely controlled the tempo of the first-half yet they struggled to create any meaningful chances until Guy Moussi deflected Emnes’s shot into his own net just before half-time.
In the 47th minute, Jutkiewicz’s left-footed effort put Boro in a strong position to claim their first victory over Forest in seven attempts.
Yet, the visitors narrowed the deficit thanks to Joel Lynch’s header and although their cause was further helped when Kevin Thomson was sent off for two bookable offences, Boro just about held on.
Forest’s resilience after going two goals down may give some comfort to manager Steve Cotterill, whose side remain five points adrift of safety.
Forest narrowed the deficit in the 66th minute when Andy Reid’s free-kick on the right was flicked in by fellow substitute Joel Lynch.
Boro’s hopes of holding on took a blow when Thomson’s challenge on Adlene Guedioura brought about a second yellow card for the midfielder in the 75th minute.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Hines, Bates, Bennett, Haroun (Smallwood 54), Thomson, Rhys Williams, Arca, Jutkiewicz (Main 79), Emnes (McMahon 76). Unused substitutes: Ogbeche, Halliday.
Nottm Forest: Camp, Wootton (Reid 59), Higginbotham, Chambers, Elokobi, Gunter, Moussi, Guedioura, McCleary, Miller (Findley 46), Harewood (Lynch 46). Unused substitutes: Smith, Blackstock.
Referee: P Tierney (Lancashire).