Middlesbrough finished with just nine men after a pulsating 3-1 win over Birmingham City at the Riverside.
Both Ben Gibson and Kenneth Omeruo were sent off for second yellow cards in a frantic second half to take the Teessiders’ red card tally this term to 13.
It was a lively Championship clash that was also marked by two cracking first-half goals and both sides forced into substitutions for injuries before the break. Boro weathered a storm then went ahead as Danny Graham stabbed home after a corner then made it two as Jacob Butterfield curled in a cracker – although City matched that with a 30 yard rocket from Emyr Huws.
Boro missed a string of chances to seal it before they were rocked by quick-fire dismissal but then dug deep and sealed it late through Lee Tomlin.
Boro had a lucky escape in only the second minute as Novak raced behind a flat-footed defence onto a cross to slot past Konstantopoulos but the offside flag was already up.
Boro’s first chance came on five minutes as Jacob Butterfield picked out Nathaniel Chalobah just outside the box to send in a dipping shot that keeper Randolph did well to tip over for a corner.
Then when Grant Leadbitter whipped the flag-kick in Ben Gibson powered in a header that was nodded off the line by Novak.
On 15 minutes Boro won a free-kick after lively Chalobah was hauled back. When Leadbitter’s effort canonned into the wall Butterfield played the rebound into the crowd for Chalobah to head just wide from 10 yards out.
Birmingham threatened on 23 minutes as a Burke corner was half-cleared and when Shinnie’s shot was blocked and Spector back-heeled the loose ball across the face of goal and it bobbled towards the far post where it was hacked clear.
And Birmingham should have scored on 25 minutes as a slotted Novak pass sent unmark Burke darting behind the defence to draw out keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos but when he chipped goalwards Kenneth Omeruo somehow appeared on the line to head it over.
But Boro hit back to take the lead on 28 minutes as Woodgate nodded down a Leadbitter corner from the right and Graham controlled deftly then stabbed home on the turn from six yards out.
Boro scored a second two minutes later as alert Jozsef Varga took a quick throw towards Butterfield on the corner of the box and he turned neatly onto it then curled over the keeper and into the far top corner.
Birmingham were back in it out of the blue on 36 minutes as Hughes picked up a loose ball wide on the right then cut inside to unleash a sizzling angled 30 yard shot that flew past the diving keeper and inside the far post.
On the stroke of half-time City amost snatched a leveller as full-back Reilly got down the left and crossed for Shinnie to ghost through and head just wide.
Boro were back on the attack on 71 minutes as Ledesma cut in from the right and sent an angled 25-yard effort zipping towards the far post forcing a full length save.
Sunstitute Tomlin almost scored within two minutes of coming on as he drilled in an angled 15 yard shot that came back off the post, hit the keeper and bounced out.
Boro had Omeruo sent off for a second yellow card on 80 minutes in a flare-up. Ledesma was fouled as City broke forward and first Gibson tried to haul down Zigic as he broke forward – and was booked – then Omeruo body-checked him.
And Boro were down to nine men on 86 minutes as City streamed forward and Gibson pulled back Zigic to earn a second yellow card.
But as City threw men forward looking to take advantage Boro broke out to seal victory with a third.
Adomah knocked the ball forward and Tomlin burst to the edge of the box and as two defenders hampered each other he slammed in a low ball that came back off the keeper and the sub then cracked in the rebound.