Carayol keeps Boro alive
Mustapha Carayol kept alive Middlesbrough's slim hopes of booking an npower Championship play-off place by scoring the only goal against Nottingham Forest.
Tony Mowbray's men had tumbled from the automatic promotion spots to mid-table with a haul of just eight points from 51 in 2013 and Carayol's consummate finish before the break sealed a first win in eight games for the Teessiders.
It was enough to keep Boro within six points of Leicester in the last play-off spot, though, with Forest remaining a point shy of sixth with three games still to play.
It was an uninspiring start to an ill-tempered half, with the home fans getting on their players' backs from as early as the first minute as Sammy Ameobi lost possession in the centre to let Lewis McGugan shoot just wide.
Jason Steele inspired cheers by repelling a close-range Simon Cox header before Scott McDonald saw his left-footed drive palmed clear at full stretch by Karl Darlow at the other end.
A stop-start period followed with fans and players alike becoming irritated with a slew of free-kicks issued by referee Mark Heywood, who let several hard challenges go unpunished.
In the 34th minute, however, Carayol bared his teeth for the first time, bursting down the left wing only to see his low cross cleared to safety.
That move prompted Forest's best spell of the game.
First, Billy Sharp headed past a post from a short Cox cross before Greg Halford nodded over the crossbar as the ball bounced around the Boro box.
There were three minutes to play before the break when Boro broke the deadlock against the run of play.
As Josh McEachran threaded a cute pass from deep and through the Forest back-line, Carayol dropped his shoulder to cut in from the left and take one touch before drilling hard and low beyond Darlow.
The Forest fans fell silent but their side were spared as Darlow pounced on Carayol's drive to the near post in time added on.
Kieron Dyer's attempt to emulate his team-mate as play resumed was not as successful and McDonald drew catcalls from the crowd when he failed to convert when Darlow was caught cold on the edge of his box.
But Boro did close the gaps that had allowed Forest some joy in the first half, prompting visiting boss Billy Davies to introduce mercurial midfielder Radoslaw Majewski shortly before the hour mark.
The Pole saw his only promising shot blocked by Andy Halliday, though, and Boro pressed forward once again.
Dyer tried his luck with several balls in to the lurking McDonald, with Halford wise to every cross, but the Forest defender was nowhere to be seen when Richard Smallwood broke through in the 77th minute.
The academy graduate found an unmarked Faris Haroun to his right but the Nigerian substitute somehow clipped over an open goalmouth.
Boro would so very nearly live to regret that spurned opportunity when Chris Cohen came knocking two minutes from time.
The Forest captain seized on an untamed knockdown on the left edge of the six-yard box but slammed his shot across Steele's goal and wide, with Boro holding on through five nervous minutes of stoppage time.