Middlesbrough made it four wins out of five with a towering display in Blackpool, but demanding boss Aitor Karanka is refusing to get carried away.
Super sub Mustapha Carayol came off the bench to break the Bloomfield Road stalemate and grab a brace in a welcome 2-0 win.
Just three weeks ago Boro were flirting with the Championship drop zone, but a sharp upturn has pushed them within touching distance of the promotion pack.
After a nightmare year on the road in which they won only once, suddenly Boro can look back on two victories and two draws from their last four games.
Thirteen points from a possible 15 have underlined a steady improvement which has taken Boro to within six points off the play-off places.
However, Boro’s level-headed Spanish coach is not getting too excited just yet.
Karanka said: “I said when I first came here when we lost two or three games, my philosophy is always the same – it is always about you can improve for the next game.
“Then we were three points away from the relegation places and now we’re not far from the play-offs – but my mentality is the same.”
Karanka was happy to see Boro bounce back from a lacklustre show in their 2-0 FA Cup exit at home to Hull.
He added: “It was a very important result. It was another unbeaten game, another unbeaten game away from home, three more points – but also it was very important to get back to winning after losing against Hull City. Keeping a clean sheet is also important for the confidence and it was on a very difficult pitch where they play long balls very well and have tall players. So I’m very happy for this.”
However, Karanka admitted he wasn’t happy about everything.
Boro struggled in the first half against a Blackpool team who went into the match having lost seven games from eight, having lost six first-team players whose loans had ended and against a background of fans’ discontent with manager Paul Ince and the boardroom.
Blackpool were so depleted their bench included two teenagers who had already played for the under-18 team in the morning plus goalkeeping coach Tony Warner.
Karabnka added “I wasn’t happy because we didn’t play with the intensity I want.
“We were two seconds behind the Blackpool players at every ball.
“In the second half we were better and put them under more pressure and concentrated better.”
Karanka had sympathy for Ince, a former Boro skipper, as the pressure mounted.
He was booed off as the atmosphere turned ugly with Boro’s goals
Karanka said: “Blackpool were a lot of points ahead of us when I came here.
“Paul Ince is a very good coach, but when the results don’t come the coach is always in this position.
“It was the same for me when I came after four or five games.”
The game was a cagey affair with defences on top and chances at a premium in a first half which had plenty of endeavour but little quality.
Blackpool forced saves from Shay Given as Barry Ferguson and Angel Martinez drilled straight at him while Boro threatened as Lukas Jutkiewicz was played through on goal but he was denied by a last-gasp Cathcart tackle, then soon after Albert Adomah also broke through only to be blocked by Robinson. In the second half Blackpool laid siege and Boro had to frantically defend a succession of corners and high balls in to the box.
However, the introduction of Carayol from the bench on the hour transformed the game with Boro looking increasing dangerous on the counter attack.
It was Carayol who drew first blood on 84 minutes after Ledesma sent him down the left to superb cut inside his man before deftly curling a 20 yard shot inside the far post.
Three minutes into stoppage time the lively winger wrapped it up as Albert Adomah squared for Curtis Main and when his stabbed shot came back off a defender Carayol swept it home crisply.