Britt Assombalonga’s 14th goal of the season proved enough to fire Boro back into the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off zone.
Assombalonga’s strike was enough to account for a determined Stoke City side and, after Bristol City were held by Reading in the early kick-off, it was also enough to lift Tony Pulis’ side back into the much coveted sixth spot in the division.
Following Bristol City’s slip, Boro knew sixth place was back up for grabs, and it was the perfect start against Stoke with what proved to be the deciding goal coming in the second minute. John Obi Mikel released Jonny Howson with a delightful ball before delivering an incisive cross which Assombalonga converted from close range.
Such an early goal gave Boro hope of having a platform to go on and really take the game to Stoke, but while the visitors may have little other than pride to play for, they responded with great spirit and gave Boro a good test.
Benik Afobe wasted a great chance to level matters inside the opening 20 minutes while Sam Vokes headed over the top moments before half-time. The closest Boro came during the opening period was when Ashley Fletcher lifted a shot over the bar.
Defensively, Boro appeared in firm control despite Stoke’s endeavours, although after Sam Clucas sent a shot over the top from distance, Danny Batth did find space in the box to meet a corner, but his header was also over the bar.
George Saville headed wide of the mark at the other end after an Adam Clayton cross, and Batth received a yellow card for clattering Darren Randolph after the Boro keeper had collected another Stoke header.
Boro: Randolph, Howson, McNair, Flint, Shotton, Saville, Besic (Downing 55), Mikel, Clayton, Fletcher (Tavernier 73), Assombalonga (Hugill 83). Subs: Dimi, Wood, Gestede, Spence.
Stoke: Federici, Allen, Williams, Etebo, Afobe (Verlinden 71), Vokes, McClean (Diouf 86), Batth, Clucas, Edwards, Collins. Subs: Haugaard, Bauer, Adam, Diouf, Krkic, Jarvis.
Referee: Darren Bond
Attendance: 22,890 (845 Stoke)