Two goals in either half sent injury-ravaged Boro to a second defeat in seven games after losing 4-0 at promotion chasing Leeds United.
With injuries and suspension ripping through the Boro squad, Jonathan Woodgate was denied a dream return to the club where he started his career.
It took less than three minutes for Leeds to get their noses in front. Patrick Bamford’s first shot was parried by Aynsley Pears and when the ball was lifted back into the six-yard box, the former Boro man was able to pick his spot to head into an empty goal.
Moments later, Pears was called upon once again to make a terrific reaction save to deny Bamford a second after he turned and struck a first time shot. Luke Ayling also tried his luck with a shot which went just over the top as Leeds started like a team on fire.
Boro did settle though and Lewis Wing shot wide after good work by George Saville and Britt Assombalonga. Marcus Tavernier also saw an effort deflected to safety.
Boro hassled and harried, but that hard work was undone right on the stoke of half-time when a ricochet fell kindly to Mateusz Klich and his shot took a deflection off Dani Ayala to double the home side’s advantage.
Shortly after the break, Pears made a good save to deny former Boro man Jack Harrison who seized on a half-cleared cross to shoot for goal. The Boro goalkeeper also denied Bamford with another good block.
The Boro keeper could do nothing about the third goal, though. After losing possession in a dangerous area, Helder Costa was rewarded for being in the right place at the right time and he smashed the ball home.
The third goal had given Leeds another lift, though, and it was 4-0 before the 75-minute mark when Klich slammed home his second of the afternoon with another sweet strike.
Having included eight Academy graduates in his squad, Woodgate took the opportunity to hand debuts to both Ben Liddle and Tyrone O’Neill during the closing stages.
As the clock ticked down, Pears pulled off another fine save to deny Kalvin Phillips with a precisely taken free-kick.