Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka couldn’t hide his delight and pride after seeing his side take a huge leap towards promotion to the Premier league with a last-gasp victory over Reading.
Substitute Adam Forshaw sent Boro back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table with a priceless injury-time winner.
Forshaw struck amid a goalmouth scramble in the fourth minute of stoppage time at the end of a hugely tense 2-1 win over Reading to send the Teessiders two points clear of Burnley at the top with five games remaining, 24 hours after third-placed Brighton had won in similarly dramatic fashion.
It had looked like being a frustrating evening for Karanka’s men until the midfielder’s last-gasp intervention after Simon Cox’s first goal in 16 months had cancelled out Emilio Nsue’s opener with Reading keeper Ali Al Habsi almost single-handedly keeping Boro at bay.
“I couldn’t be prouder than I am at this moment,” said Boro’s head coach.
“These lads deserve to be here because of the work they are doing.
“When you win like that was it is really nice. I am really pleased for the players. They did everything, even if they hadn’t scored that goal.
“We scored late but we created I don’t know how many chances. It was a very difficult game.”
Boro took the lead with just 10 minutes gone when, after Al Habsi had blocked Jordan Rhodes’ shot from point-blank range with his legs, Nsue followed up to convert the rebound.
But for Al Habsi, Boro might have gone in at the break with a commanding lead as the visitors should have been dead and buried within 35 seconds of the restart.
Nsue fed De Laet down the right and he raced away before pulling the ball back to Adomah, who completely miskicked with the goal at his mercy.
Boro were made to pay on 54 minutes when Dimi Konstantopoulos failed to hold former Boro man Andrew Taylor’s skidding drive and Cox, whose last goal came in December 2014, finish expertly with a delicate dink.
Al Habsi continued to defy the Teessiders, saving twice from Downing and tipping defender Ben Gibson’s header over in between before claiming substitute David Nugent’s late header.
Matej Vydra passed up a glorious opportunity to snatch the win for the visitors as the clock ticked into added time, but Forshaw was not so wasteful, thumping home a low drive after Downing’s right-wing corner had pinballed its way across the penalty area.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, De Laet, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter (Forshaw 59), Nsue (Ramirez 67), Downing, Adomah, Rhodes (Nugent 87). Subs Not Used: De Pena, De Sart, Agazzi, Kalas. Goals: Nsue 10, Forshaw 90.
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter (McCleary 18), McShane, Cooper, Obita (Taylor 46), Norwood, Williams, Piazon (John 59), Vydra, Quinn, Cox. Subs Not Used: Bond, Evans, Hector, Rakels. Booked: Cooper, Taylor.Goals: Cox 54.
Att: 23,746 Ref: Scott Duncan (Tyne & Wear).