Tony Pulis thought Middlesbrough were wasteful in front of goal even though they clinched a valuable three points in the battle for a Sky Bet Championship play-off place by beating Reading.
Adama Traore scored either side of the interval - only his second and third goals of the season - but Grant Leadbitter rattled the post before the Royals set up a tense finale when substitute Chris Martin netted in the 78th minute.
Britt Assombalonga missed the chance to restore Boro’s two-goal cushion when he blazed his 85th-minute penalty over the bar although his side held on for a 2-1 win at the Riverside.
Boro’s north-east rivals Sunderland did them a favour by battling back from 3-0 down to secure a 3-3 draw at sixth-placed Bristol City, who are now just four points ahead of the Teessiders.
Boro boss Pulis, though, focused on his side’s profligacy as he said: “I’m pleased with the win, but obviously disappointed that we’ve not taken our chances that we should.
“I don’t think there’s any question that when Adama gets a second goal we should have won. When you miss a penalty, Patrick Bamford misses form about six yards out on the angle, Grant Leadbitter hits the post and somehow it comes out, so it should have been five there.
“It was lovely to get them in afterwards and certainly talk about what happened after they scored. There’s certain things we have to do better than we did.”
Pulis, whose side had not won or scored in his first three home league games in charge, was particularly impressed with former Barcelona winger Traore’s display.
Pulis added: “As I’ve said all along, if Adama gets it all together he’ll be a wonderful player. He’s fantastic as a lad, he’s only a 22-year-old Spanish lad who moved away from home and it’s difficult, he needs time.
“I’ve been very patient with him, in the second half he looked a little bit tired but was still working as hard as he could so we’re delighted with him.”
While Middlesbrough left the Riverside satisfied with the outcome, Reading were smarting again having now just won once in their last 11 matches.
Boss Jaap Stam said: “I’m disappointed. It’s not about the players’ commitment. They are very committed to get these points.
“It’s not about the feeling not being there, the atmosphere is still good, positive. We have played this season many games that have looked promising, but we have conceded too easily.
“How hard have I found this season? Basically you learn a lot from being in this situation. We spoke at the end of last season, as a club and team, to have a good season, but when you are in situations sometimes it is difficult to get out of.
“You need to make your own luck. We need to make sure the team stays positive and move forward and take opportunities.
“I don’t think Middlesbrough created a lot of chances through playing football with possession.
“It’s frustrating how you concede goals at times. At times, we had an opportunity to score, playing balls into the box. It looked promising at times.”