On-loan pair Andraz Sporar and Onel Hernandez opened their Middlesbrough accounts as a debut howler from Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Ethan Horvath piled more pressure on boss Chris Hughton.
United States international Horvath, a summer signing from Club Brugge, badly miscontrolled a backpass to let Hernandez steal in to seal the points and keep Forest rooted to the foot of the Championship.
Slovenia striker Sporar, a transfer deadline day capture from Sporting Lisbon, had crashed home an emphatic finish midway through the first half to put the visitors ahead on his first Boro start.
Victory, Boro’s first in five matches, moved Neil Warnock’s side up seven places to 11th, while Forest have just one point to their name after a sixth defeat in seven matches.
Hughton took charge at the City Ground just under a year ago after a similarly poor start to last season. Forest had lost their opening four games, costing predecessor Sabri Lamouchi his job.
The former Newcastle and Brighton boss will fear the same fate could befall him – with Chris Wilder and John Terry among those linked – after a fifth straight home loss in all competitions.
Hughton handed Horvath his bow as Brice Samba paid the price for errors in previous games, but none of those mistakes were as glaring as the awful touch that gifted Boro’s second to Norwich loanee Hernandez.
It could have been even worse for Forest and Horvath as he spilled Uche Ikpeazu’s late header but a covering defender cleared Grant Hall’s follow-up to deny the visitors a third goal.
Philip Zinckernagel was Forest’s brightest spark, testing Joe Lumley from the edge of the box early on before teeing up James Garner to drill wastefully wide from similar range.
But the Dane, on loan from Watford, was caught in possession by Anfernee Dijksteel in the build-up to Boro’s opener and Marcus Tavernier’s slide-rule pass sent Sporar racing away to fire high into the net.
Confidence-shorn Forest never recovered, a close-range Joe Worrall effort that was deflected over the closest they came to an equaliser before Hernandez robbed Horvath to slot into an empty net and deepen their woes.
Forest boss Chris Hughton:
“It’s a very concerning and very difficult situation. It’s not very comfortable and I am the manager, so I take responsibility for that, irrespective of the circumstances and whether the squad is strong enough.
“Managers are judged on results, so there has to be a very quick turnaround, but I just have to digest this performance, think about where we can improve and prepare for another tough game in three days’ time.
On Horvath’s error: “It was a mistake, but it can happen to any goalkeeper.
“You make decisions to change the team for what you feel are the right reasons and Ethan has been excellent in the two cup games he has played for us and, ultimately, they took their chances and we did not show enough in the final third to get back into it.”
Boro boss Neil Warnock told BBC Tees:
“They let me down on Saturday, three or four of them, and I made sure I told them in the dressing room. But tonight nobody let me down, everyone from one to 11 did their job and played some good stuff.
“We started better, and in a difficult game too because with the pressure on Forest you know they are going to come and have a go at you.
“But I think Sporar’s goal gave us that little bit of confidence – it was a great finish and a great ball from Tav (Tavernier) as well.
“Sporar hasn’t played many minutes in the last 12 months so it will have done him the world of good.”
- 6Mbe SohSubstituted forRichardsonat 74′minutes
- 22YatesBooked at 68mins
- 37GarnerSubstituted forLolleyat 67′minutes
- 33TaylorSubstituted forCosta Silvaat 67′minutes
- 18Ribeiro Dias
- 19Costa Silva
- 14PeltierBooked at 50mins
- 16HowsonBooked at 45mins
- 23Léa SilikiSubstituted forJonesat 71′minutes
- 25CrooksBooked at 62mins
- 8HernándezBooked at 73minsSubstituted forWatmoreat 87′minutes
- 11SporarBooked at 26minsSubstituted forIkpeazuat 80′minutes
- Andy Woolmer
Match ends, Nottingham Forest 0, Middlesbrough 2.
Second Half ends, Nottingham Forest 0, Middlesbrough 2.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Joe Worrall.
Attempt blocked. Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is blocked. Assisted by Matt Crooks.
Offside, Nottingham Forest. Lewis Grabban tries a through ball, but Max Lowe is caught offside.
Foul by Scott McKenna (Nottingham Forest).
Uche Ikpeazu (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Xande Silva (Nottingham Forest).
Matt Crooks (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Joe Lolley (Nottingham Forest) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Attempt blocked. Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Max Lowe with a cross.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Duncan Watmore replaces Onel Hernández.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Lewis Grabban.
Attempt blocked. Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Onel Hernández.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Joe Worrall.
Attempt missed. Grant Hall (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box misses to the left following a set piece situation.
Attempt saved. Uche Ikpeazu (Middlesbrough) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marcus Tavernier with a cross.
Foul by Ryan Yates (Nottingham Forest).
Uche Ikpeazu (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt missed. Xande Silva (Nottingham Forest) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left misses to the right. Assisted by Lewis Grabban.