DELE Adebola’s injury-time strike cruelly denied Middlesbrough what looked set to be a deserved victory at the Riverside.
After a much-improved second-half performance, Tony Mowbray’s side looked to have sealed the points via Scott McDonald’s strike on 51 minutes.
But Andrew Taylor’s slip at the death allowed Adebola to steal in and send the ball past Jason Steele to make Boro pay for some profligate finishing.
Forest had started brightly and Rob Earnshaw should probably have done better when, after finding himself in a space outside the area, he skewed his tame effort wide.
Boro’s Julio Arca had no such problems on 10 minutes in terms of aim and power after some creative play by Barry Robson played him in, but Forest keeper Lee Camp did well to beat his shot away.
A minute later, Robson himself had a crack from the edge of the area only for Camp to deny the latest in Boro captains for this season with a save low to his right.
Forest’s response was immediate as Steele had to be alert to deny Earnshaw after the Welshman had been picked out by a superb cross-field ball by Lewis McGugan.
The visitors kept up the pressure when some trickery from David McGoldrick left the Boro defence bamboozled, only for Steele to get them out of a jam with a fine save low to his left.
Forest should have taken the lead on 22 minutes when Chris Coen whipped in a free-kick from the right and an unmarked Luke Chambers was left kicking himself when he clearly took his eye off the ball and it came off his shoulder and went over the bar.
A set-piece looked to be Boro’s best chance of an opening and so it proved on 39 minutes when Forest failed to clear Robson’s corner with Camp producing a brilliant save from Andrew Taylor’s half-volley.
Soon after, another corner caused mayhem in the visiting defence with Leroy Lita unable to keep his header from Robson’s cross down when a better connection would surely have given Boro the lead.
It would be another set-piece that would provide Mowbray’s men with another attempt on goal.
With his sublime free-kick in the 3-2 win at Millwall a week and a half back still fresh in the memory, Tony McMahon tried his luck from 25 yards out and nearly pulled it off, only to be denied by a brilliant save from Camp.
Two minutes later, Lita from the left jinked his way into the Forest box and Camp once again had to be at his best to deny the Boro hitman.
However, Camp could not save them all and so it proved after 51 minutes.
Lita strode down the right before releasing Robson. The ex-Celtic man cut the ball back and, while Arca swiped at fresh air, the ball carried on to an unmarked McDonald and from six yards out he smashed it into the roof of the net to give Boro the lead.
McDonald was unlucky not to be on the score-sheet again on 64 minutes when seemingly from a harmless position his half-volley 10 yards inside the left touchline nearly caught Camp out as it flew inches past the post.
Sixty seconds later, Arca played a sublime ball to release Taylor on the left and Camp had to do well to beat away the Boro man’s thunderbolt.
While Forest huffed and puffed, it was Middlesbrough who continued to look more likely to add to the scoring.
But at 1-0 up the opposition still has a chance and Earnshaw must have must his moment had come on 87 minutes only for Steele to come flying out of his goal to save at the Welshman’s feet.
A number of Boro fans then proceeded to leave early thinking their heroes had done their job – it was just as well they didn’t see what was to come.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Steele, McMahon, Hines, Grounds, Bennett, Robson, Bailey, Arca, Taylor, McDonald, Lita. Subs Not Used: Ripley, Haas, Zemmama, Boyd, Kink, Emnes, Smallwood.
Booked: Arca, McMahon, Robson. Goals: McDonald 51.
NOTTM FOREST: Camp, Gunter, Chambers, Morgan, Lynch (Moloney 38), Cohen, McKenna, McGugan (Anderson 61), McCleary, Earnshaw, McGoldrick (Adebola 67). Subs Not Used: Smith, Tudgay, Majewski, Rodney.
Booked: McCleary. Goals: Adebola 90.
Att: 15,341. Ref: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).