Middlesbrough’s play-off hopes were badly dented by a 2-0 home defeat to rivals Cardiff but manager Tony Mowbray insists his side are still in with a great chance of finishing in the top six.
Cardiff started brightly and took the lead when Ben Turner headed home. Joe Mason then neatly slotted home a second to give the Welsh a commanding advantage at the break.
Boro responded with a brighter second half and three times hit the woodwork but could not find the breakthrough.
As a result, Cardiff leapfrogged Boro and back into the play-off spots leaving their hosts – who have now taken just four points from seven games – trailing.
But Mowbray insisted ahead of today’s trip to Hull that the Boro are still in the chase, especially given they are only one point outside the top six.
He said: “Look, we are all frustrated, disappointed and annoyed because we have lost a game and the goals we let in were very poor.
“But we are only one point off the play-offs with five games to go and with everything still to play for.
“That is five games to define our season. Is it going to be a season of progression and improvement? We’ll see.
“We have an opportunity over the next five games – or eight games if we are successful – to determine that.
“We have shown we can go away to teams and win games and we have our next two on the road and then we have bottom of the table Doncaster at home.
“So we still have a big chance to haul ourselves back into it. It is far from over.”
Cardiff chief Malky Mackay was delighted as his on-song side clawed back up into sixth place.
“We are back in the play-offs and we have a bit of momentum behind us now,” he said.
“We have beaten a good Boro side who are one of our promotion rivals, we have only had one defeat in eight, we’ve kept three clean sheets in the last five... things like that give you a little bit of a psychological edge going into the play-offs. I’m delighted with the way the game panned out.”
Mackay was disappointed that Boro goalkeeper Jason Steele was not sent off early on after he clattered Kenny Miller when coming out to deal with a poor back pass.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, McManus, Hines, Bennett, Robson, Thomson (Emnes 62), Bailey (Ogbeche 84), Hammill (Martin 69), McDonald, Jutkiewicz. Unused substitutes: McMahon, Smallwood.
Cardiff City: Marshall, Blake, Hudson, Turner, Taylor, Cowie, Gunnarsson, Lawrence, McPhail (Gestede 54), Whittingham, Miller (Mason 6), Gestede (McNaughton 86). Unused substitutes: Heaton, Earnshaw.
Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).
Man of the match: Joe Mason.