Sheffield Wednesday secured their first home victory since Boxing Day after a 2-0 victory over promotion-chasing Middlesbrough this afternoon.
Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes from Atdhe Nuhiu (pen) and Will Keane helped Owls seal back-to-back Championship victories for the first time in 2015.
Nuhiu has now scored four times in as many outings against Boro and his spot-kick took his tally to nine for the season.
Victory moves Owls up to 10th in the standings and completes their second double of the campaign.
Keiron Westwood replaced Chris Kirkland after serving a one-match ban following his sending off at Derby last weekend.
Middlesbrough, deploying a 3-5-2 system, had a strong penalty appeal turned down in the second minute when Albert Adomah appeared to be clipped by Jacques Maghoma but referee Stephen Martin was unmoved, waving play on.
On a tricky playing surface, Wednesday had the first meaningul sight at goal after Atdhe Nuhiu fed Kieran Lee following a dangerous delivery by Liam Palmer. Lee slipped a pass into the path of Maghoma, who’s deflected strike was comfortably gathered by Dimitrios Konstantopoulos.
Moments later, Palmer dragged a left foot drive well wide as Wednesday continued to ask one or two questions of the meanest Championship defence.
Will Keane, searching for his third goal in Owls colours, sent a looping header on to the top of the net after more good build-up play involving Maghoma, Palmer and Nuhiu.
There was a worrying moment for the hosts when Nuhiu went down in a heap on the floor after a challenge with Boro skipper Dean Whitehead. The former Austrian Under-21 international shrugged off the knock after receiving treatment for several minutes and was fit enough to play on.
In a rare forway forward, Middlesbrough’s Adam Clayton unleahsed a fierce right foot effort which flew off target.
There was another lengthy delay in play after a clash of heads between Kamil Zayatte and Patrick Bamford. Both recovered from the collision and twelve-goal forward Bamford was bandaged up after suffering a head wound.
Middlesbrough regrouped and came close to opening the scoring in the 44th minute with Adam Forshaw sending his lob over Westwood but into the side-netting.
But the hosts hit back and Dielna’s rasping volley was well held by Konstantopoulos after Boro only partially cleared Palmer’s free-kick.
The Owls made a bright start after the re-start, with Lewis McGugan drilling a shot narrowly wide following a neat lay-off by Lee.
Wednesday broke the deadlock in the 52nd minute after Kenneth Omeruo was adjudged to have handled Palmer’s centre. NUHIU slotted home from 12 yards. Konstantopoulos got a hand to his spot-kick but was unable to keep it out.
Things got even better for Gray’s men two minutes later when KEANE doubled their advantage after Nuhiu struck the post following a free-kick out wide by McGugan.
Going 2-0 down prompted Boro boss Aitor Karanka to make a double change as he threw on Lee Tomlin and Grant Leadbitter for Dean Whitehead and Omeruo.
But Wednesday could have claimed a third after Keane latched on to McGugan’s fine through ball but the Manchester United loanee fired straight at Konstantopoulos.
Tomlin and Semedo were cautioned after an altercation as tempers threatened to boil over.
For the majority of the contest, Middlesbrough lacked fluency in the final third. Bamford wasted a glorious opportunity to reduce the deficit in the 69th minute when he steered his tame downward header straight at Westwood after a great cross by Forshaw.
It took a superb last-ditch challenge by Tomas Kalas to stop Nuhiu from testing the reflexes of Konstantopoulos again after a free-flowing Owls move on the left flank as they kept on pressing for a third.
They almost got caught out at the end as Bamford pulled the ball back for Kike who looked destined to reduce the deficit only to be denied by a stunning tackle from Palmer.
In the closing minutes, Kike’s stunning long range drive flashed inches wide as Wednesday recorded their 17th clean sheet of the season. Owls: Westwood, Palmer, Lees, Zayatte, Dielna, Lee, Semedo, McGugan, Maghoma, Nuhiu, Keane.
Subs: Kirkland, Hutchinson, Helan, Maguire, May, Vermijl, Mattock.
Middlesbrough: Dimi, Kalas, Omeruo, Gibson, Husband, Forshaw, Whitehead, Clayton, Adomah, Kike, Bamford.
Subs: Ripley, Friend, Leadbitter, Tomlin, Nsue, Wildschut, Woodgate.