Sam Gallagher’s strike was enough to earn Blackburn a vital 1-0 win over Middlesbrough which propels them into the Championship’s top two.
In an absorbing contest between two of the division’s form sides, Rovers had to do without 20-goal top scorer Ben Brereton Diaz who is on international duty.
But Gallagher made light of the Chilean’s absence with a clinical 76th-minute strike – his sixth of the season – to deservedly give Tony Mowbray’s side all three points against his former club.
It was just reward for Blackburn who registered arguably their best performance of the season, without key personnel and against a team on a run of four consecutive victories.
Blackburn have now won six of their last seven home games and are three points clear of third-placed Bournemouth, having played a game more. On this evidence, they are going to take some stopping.
Despite being out of sorts, Middlesbrough probably created the most clear-cut chances, as Matt Crooks had a header cleared off the line and both Aaron Connolly and Crooks missed excellent injury-time chances. But the Rovers pressure ultimately told.
Middlesbrough remain two points off the play-offs after only their second defeat of Chris Wilder’s tenure.
Rovers made a fast start, which saw Joe Lumley unconventionally clear Gallagher’s header across goal.
Gallagher’s acrobatic effort midway through the half required a smart save from Lumley and the impressive Reda Khadra whistled a free-kick wide on the half hour after a fourth Middlesbrough player received a booking to desperately thwart a counter attack.
Just before the break, the German set up Gallagher, whose shot was blocked as Boro struggled to hang on in a half in which they faced 11 shots.
They improved after the break as Connolly’s near-post strike was diverted just wide and from the 62nd-minute corner, they should have gone ahead, but Crooks’ bullet header was brilliantly cleared off the line by Lewis Travis.
Action was halted moments later due to a medical emergency in the stands, something Boro boss Wilder was quick to draw attention to.
Play resumed nine minutes later after the supporter received treatment and left to warm applause from all sides of Ewood, with Blackburn reporting that the male supporter was “now conscious and breathing”.
Blackburn settled quickest and scored what could be a crucial goal in their quest for promotion.
Paddy McNair failed to clear Boro lines and Gallagher swivelled and shot to devastating effect, finding the bottom left corner with a superb low strike.
Wilder’s men rallied thereafter, and wasted two superb chances in the 12 minutes of stoppage time.
First, Connolly lashed over from close range with the goal at his mercy before Crooks powered a point-blank header over from Marcus Tavernier’s cross and Rovers held on to a rapturous noise.
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