Super-sub Fernando Forestieri grabbed his 12th goal of the season to lead Sheffield Wednesday to a crucial 1-0 victory over mid-table Cardiff City.
Forestieri, a second half replacement for David Jones, stooped to head home the winner in the 84th minute after Allan McGregor could only parry Jordan Rhodes' rasping shot.
The result keeps the Owls in the Championship play-off positions and stretches their winning run to three matches.
It was a difficult afternoon for referee David Coote, who should have sent off Junior Hoilett in the first half after the wide man raised his hands and pushed Daniel Pudil in the face.
Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal was forced to rejig his back four, with Glenn Loovens failing to recover from a groin injury which he suffered against Newcastle United last weekend. Vincent Sasso replaced the former Cardiff defender at the heart of Wednesday's rearguard. It is the first time Loovens had missed a match since January 2.
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Cardiff packed midfield, recalling Greg Halford, who was stationed in front of their back four. The South Wales outfity set-up to frustrate and spoil Wednesday's possession-based football.
After a scrappy start, the Owls almost broke the deadlock in the ninth minute after good approach play by Ross Wallace and Gary Hooper. The duo exchanged passes and Wallace's left foot piledriver from outside the penalty area was turned on to the post by Allan McGregor.
Moments later, Joe Ralls' fierce strike forced Keiren Westwood into action and the Wednesday shot-stopper spilled it and then felled Kenneth Zohore in the penalty area but the striker was flagged for offside.
The atmosphere was a tad flat at Hillsborough and the Owls struggled to break down a stubborn, well-organised Cardiff side.
Jack Hunt had a penalty appeal waved away in the 26th minute after he tangled with Kadeem Harris but referee David Coote waved play on.
Zohore worked manfully up front on his own for the visitors and he slipped in Ralls, who saw his low shot saved by Westwood.
The big flashpoint of a scrappy first half came in the 42nd minute when Junior Hoilett raised his hands and pushed Daniel Pudil in the face near the touchline. It was a blatant red card but Coote only cautioned the Cardiff wide man. Carvalhal was left fuming by the decision.
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Cardiff continued to slow the game down and disrupt Wednesday's forward forays after the break.
Carvalhal turned to his bench to add a spark, throwing on strikers Jordan Rhodes, Fernando Forestieri and Atdhe Nuhiu.
Zohore blazed wide from an acute angle after wriggling his way past Hunt as the Bluebirds briefly threatened.
The Owls lacked fluency and conviction in the final third.
Rhodes climbed above Cardiff's defence to head Wallace's corner wide before Forestieri's free-kick from long range was comfortably kept out by McGregor.
Their patience paid off late on as Forestieri converted from close range to seal a big three points in the battle to secure a play-off spot.
Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Sasso,Pudil; Wallace, Bannan, Jones (Forestieri 62), Reach; Fletcher (Nuhiu 74), Hooper (Rhodes 54). Substitutes: Wildsmith, McManaman, Palmer, Semedo.
Cardiff: McGregor; Richards, Manga, Morrison, Bennett; Halford (Noone 86), Gunnarsson, Ralls (Whittingham 87); Hoilett (Pilkington 86), Harris, Zohore. Substitutes: Murphy, Peltier, Connolly, Lambert.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)