Lewis McGugan grabbed his third goal of the season as Sheffield Wednesday beat rock-bottom Blackpool 1-0 to seal their third win in four Championship matches.
The midfielder, on loan from Watford until the end of the season, registered in the 54th minute to help the Owls record their eighth away win of the campaign and keep their slim play-off hopes alive.
It is the 18th clean sheet Wednesday have recorded this season.
With Jose Semedo and Kamil Zayatte ruled out with foot and hamstring problems respectively, Gray handed first-team recalls to Jeremy Helan and Kieran Lee.
The Wednesday boss also rewarded Chris Maguire for his impressive cameo and strike against Blackburn Rovers in midweek by giving him the nod in the wide positions over Jacques Maghoma.
Wednesday made a positive start on arguably the worst playing surface in the division, fashioning the first real chance in the fourth minute through Lewis McGugan, who fired over when well-placed after a neat lay off by Chris Maguire.
Moments later, Maguire raced on to a clever back heel by Will Keane and saw his low strike superbly blocked by David Ferguson following a jinking run.
But the visitors didn’t have it all their own way and Nathan Delfouneso illustrated his speed on the counter attack by outpacing Tom Lees out wide and the former Leeds United defender clumsily brought him down just outside the penalty area. Lees was lucky to escape a booking but Owls dealt comfortably with the corner.
Sam Hutchinson was taken off in the 18th minute after picking up an injury. His replacement Marnick Vermijl moved to the right flank and Kieran Lee was switched into central midfield.
The enforced change briefly unsettled the Owls and David Perkins tried his luck from distance but Keiren Westwood was equal to it.
Adthe Nuhiu wasted a glorious opportunity to put Wednesday ahead in the 25th minute. The club’s top-scorer peeled away from his marker at the back post to meet McGugan’s teasing delivery only to head over from close range.
Maguire was a big thorn in Blackpool’s side. He cut inside and unleashed a fierce right foot drive which Ell Parish, diving to his right, did well to hang on to.
It was very easy to see why the Tangerines have only won four times this season. Their lack of quality in the final third was apparent and Jamie O’Hara curled a 25-yard free kick off target in one of the hosts rare attempts at goal.
Indeed, Wednesday kept pressing for the opener and a long range attempt by Maguire in the 37th minute was easily gathered by Parish.
On a tricky playing surface, both sides coughed up possession at regular intervals. O’Hara was denied by Westwood after a speedy break by Delfouneso.
But Wednesday took the lead in the 54th minute when McGugan’s free kick sailed in following a clumsy challenge by Tom Barkhuizen on Maguire. Barkhuizen was cautioned for his crude tackle.
More than 2,000 Wednesdayites celebrated McGugan’s strike, chanting ‘Sign him up, sign him up’. The talented midfielder is set to return to Watford at the end of the season following the expiry of his loan deal.
Things could have got even better for the Owls just after the hour mark had Nuhiu kept his composure in front of goal but Parish saved his right footed drive.
Blackpool refused to give up and Keiren Westwood had to be alert to keep put Miles Addison’s close range header after Wednesday failed to cleared to a long throw.
Tempers threatened to boil over in the 69th minute when Claude Dielna and Dom Telford clashed off the ball. Referee Graham Scott calmed down the situation and then cautioned both players.
There were plenty of yellow cards issued after the break as the tackles flied in. With 11 minutes remaining, Telford turned sharply in the penalty area before firing over when he should have at least tested Westwood.
At the other end, Vermijl surged forward before seeing his rasping right foot shot saved b y Parish.Blackpool: Parish; Barkhuizen, Aldred, Hall, Ferguson; Addison, Oliver, O’Hara, Perkins, Telford, Delfouneso. Substitutes: Boney, Clarke, O’Dea, Nosworthy, Cubero, Osayi-Samuel, Sene.
Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Dielna, Helan; Lee, Hutchinson, McGugan, Maguire; Nuhiu, Keane. Substitutes: Kirkland, Buxton, Mattock, May, Maghoma, Melo, Vermijl.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).