Middlesbrough moved six points clear of the relegation zone in the Sky Bet Championship as second-half goals from Ashley Fletcher and Lewis Wing secured a 2-1 win over Stoke.
Stoke remain rooted in the bottom three despite having claimed the lead when Sam Clucas slotted home from inside the box.
Fletcher equalised four minutes after the Potters’ opener and Wing fired home an excellent long-range winner with 19 minutes left to extend Boro’s winning home run to three games.
With Britt Assombalonga still unavailable because of a hamstring injury, Jonathan Woodgate handed 19-year-old striker Stephen Walker a first league start. Walker, who was born and raised on Teesside as a Middlesbrough fan, is an England Under-19 international but had precious little chance to impress on a difficult night for strikers.
The best chance of the opening period came when Fletcher outmuscled former Middlesbrough loanee Danny Batth as he barged on to Jonny Howson’s through-ball. His driven low strike was heading towards the corner before former England goalkeeper Jack Butland produced an excellent fingertip save.
The visitors broke the deadlock eight minutes after the break.
Lee Gregory broke down the right after Dael Fry allowed a long ball to sail over his head, and the forward delivered a low ball into the area. Pears produced a superb point-blank save to keep out James McClean’s initial strike, but he was powerless to prevent Clucas slotting home.
Stoke’s lead lasted just four minutes before Boro equalised.
Jonny Howson floated a deft ball over the top of the Potters defence and after ghosting in behind a dawdling Batth, Fletcher angled in a neat diving header. Butland got a decent hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out.
The arrival of Wing and Rudy Gestede from the bench increased Middlesbrough’s attacking threat, and the hosts scored their winner when Marcus Tavernier released Wing into Stoke’s final third and with his opponents backing off, the midfielder drilled a clinical low shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
Middlesbrough: Pears, Howson, Ayala, Fry, Spence (Johnson 78), Saville, Clayton (Wing 58), Tavernier, Coulson, Fletcher, Walker (Gestede 58). Unused substitutes: Mejias, Wood-Gordon, O’Neill ,Liddle.
Stoke City: Butland, Smith, Batth, Lindsay, Ward (Powell 68), Allen, Cousins, Clucas, Ince (Diouf 88), Gregory, McClean (Vokes 76). Unused substitutes: Martins Indi, Davies, Hogan, Collins.
Referee: O Langford (W Midlands).