Angry Boro boss Aitor Karanka said his side’s display in the 2-2 draw at Bolton was the worst since he had arrived.
Boro let slip a two-goal cushion in a scrappy second half at a rain-lashed Reebok Stadium to surrender what looked a comfortable lead.
They capitalised on two defensive mistakes by Bolton but the home side pulled one back before the break and then the Boro side cracked in the final minute as the home side piled on the pressure.
“We did not play well at all,” he said. “It was a draw but it felt like a defeat.
“They gave us two goals from the sky and from there we should have been comfortable and we should have held on but, again, we let in a goal late on.
“We did that often when I first came but had done well in the recent matches to keep clean sheets.
“Slipping back to that and losing concentration was a big disappointment”.
But the boss admitted that he was happy with Boro’s return of 10 points from four festive fixtures that has moved them to within six points of the play-offs a fortnight after flirting with the drop spots.
“If you had said to me before we went to Millwall that we would take 10 points from those games I would have been happy, obviously,” he said.
“But it is a sign of progress I suppose that we do feel angry after only getting gone point.
“The team is not complete. We are making progress. And I am happy in the way the team is working and learning.”
Boro took the lead on nine minutes following a howler in the Bolton defence.
Albert Adomah crossed and defender Knight cut it out, then stumbled over the ball and an alert Main stole it and back-heeled for unmarked Mustapha Carayol to curl a low 20-yard effort beyond the diving keeper and inside the far post.
Bolton almost levelled two minutes later as Mason wriggled into box from the right and, when Gibson tackled, the loose ball squirted to unmarked Pratley on the edge of the box – but with time and space he sent his low shot a foot wide.
Then Boro grabbed a second on the break on 19 minutes after a horrendous mix-up in the Bolton box.
Jacob Butterfield chipped a quick ball forward and hapless Knight turned and played a back pass, but keeper Lonergan was already advancing and was gutted to watch it bobble past him and, although it looked to be going in, Curtis Main darted in to make sure from two yards out. There followed a scrappy spell with Knight being booed with every touch by the home fans.
But Bolton were back in the game on 29 minutes as defender Alex Baptiste played a one-two with Davies on the edge of the box then took a step to curl home
After three clean sheets it was the first goal Boro had conceded in 303 minutes.
Bolton should have levelled on 36 minutes when a Given throw-out fell short and Lee stole the ball off Daniel Ayala and dashed into the box before cutting it back, but Mason blazed over. After the break, both sides had chances and Boro went close as Main headed into the side-netting, then a Grant Leadbitter effort was charged down. But Boro were on the rack in the closing stages and cracked in the 90th minute as David Ngog hammered home an angled 10-yard drive after Boro twice failed to clear in a furious scramble.
BORO: Given, R Williams, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Smallwood, Leadbitter (C), Adomah, Butterfield (Ledesma 79), Carayol (Jutkiewicz 66), Main. Subs: Konstantopoulos, Dimi, Richardson, Varga, Emnes, Hines
BOLTON: Lonergan, Baptiste, Ream, Mills, Knight, Pratley (Moritz 65), Spearing ©, Davies, Eagles, Mason (Beckford 65), Lee (Ngog 78). Subs: Lee-Barrett, White, Medo, Vela.
Ref: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire)