Boro’s unbeaten Riverside run came to an end as Luton Town made the most of their first visit to Teesside in 25 years.
An early goal proved the difference between the two sides on a frustrating afternoon, where the biggest plus for Jonathan Woodgate was that he was able to welcome George Friend back from long-term injury.
Luton took the lead in the 16th minute courtesy of Ryan Tunnicliffe’s first goal of the season. Kazenga Lualua started a flowing move that saw Tunnicliffe convert a Dan Potts cross with a left foot strike.
It was half-an-hour in before Boro tested Simon Sluga in the Luton goal, when he had to react quickly to claw away an in-swinging corner from Hayden Coulson.
But the visitors were looking lively, and George Saville's great anticipation to cut out a cross which would have left the impressive Lualua with a clear sight of goal.
Ashley Fletcher shot at Sluga after being picked out by Lewis Wing, who delivered an absolute peach of a pass forward, but it was proving to be a frustrating afternoon.
Boro stepped things up as the game wore on, James Collins getting a vital touch to deflect away what would have been a trademark strike from Wing.
As the game headed into the final quarter, Woodgate brought on Rudy Gestede to join Fletcher, Lukas Nemcha, and Britt Assombalonga in what was essentially a front-four.
Coulson was Boro’s best outlet for the front men and when he jinked his way down the left, it was Assombalonga who turned the cross over the bar with Gestede coming in behind him.
Luton’s delaying tactics, which had started following their early goal, were becoming increasingly evident as the game wore on with the visitors showing little urgency even when in possession in the Middlesbrough third.