Boro moved a step closer the play-off places after picking up a second successive Riverside win.
Neil Warnock’s side followed the weekend win against Stoke City by beating Preston North End 2-0 to move within five points of sixth-placed Barnsley.
It was another deserved win for Boro, who dominated much of the contest and were by far the more incisive of the two sides.
A rare moment of good fortune laid the foundation for the win when Jordan Storey put through his own goal and after the visitors were reduced to 10 men before half-time, Warnock’s side were rewarded when substitute Marcus Tavernier made a scoring return from the bench to give Boro a two-goal cushion.
The visitors had almost snatched the lead in spectacular fashion. After a spell of pinball inside the Boro area the ball was played back to Preston right-back Sepp Van Den Berg, who unleashed an absolute rocket from distance which left the woodwork rattling as it went to safety.
But Boro were in front a minute later after a howler by Preston’s Storey. Yannick Bolasie crossed from the right and Storey, under no pressure, swung at the ball to clear it, but sliced it back beyond the reach of Daniel Iversen and into the back of the net.
Scott Sinclair had the ball in the Boro net when Preston won a corner from the re-start, but the former Celtic man was adjudged offside when he pounced after Marcus Bettinelli had got down well to save an initial header.
Preston were reduced to 10 before the half-time whistle when Alan Browne received his marching orders. The Preston midfielder appeared to kick out at Sam Morsy after a challenge between the two and Oliver Langford had no doubts in pulling out a red card.
There was a second red for the visitors during the half-time break when manager Alex Neil was punished by the referee for protesting about the dismissal of his captain.
Things would have got worse for the visitors immediately after the re-start had it not been for Iversen, who somehow managed to keep out a Paddy McNair header with his boot, but the goalkeeper was helpless moments later.
McNair whipped over a cross which Akpom lashed past Iversen and against the underside of the bar. As the ball came back out, Tavernier, a half-time sub for Morsy, followed up to place a header firmly in the corner to double the advantage.
That proved to be the last of the action for McNair, who was forced into leaving the field through injury. From the resultant free-kick, whipped in by Tavernier, Grant Hall came within a whisker of heading home his third goal of the season.
Boro threatened to add a third in the late stages, but two was enough to seal a second successive home win.