With this result, Gareth Southgate took a huge step towards continuing his management education in the Premiership, and to condemning his erstwhile team-mate, Alan Pardew, to seeking another promotion.
Given a forthcoming schedule which reads Portsmouth (away), Bolton (away), Chelsea and Manchester United, Charlton had to win this to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up and of dragging Boro into the mire. Even after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink gave them a goal advantage they allowed Middlesbrough to claim their first away success since April.
It would be tempting to suggest that the rookie outwitted the "safe pair of hands" Charlton summoned in an attempt to rescue their season, but the game is still about players as much as tactics and Boro had the better ones. In particular they had, in Mark Viduka and Ayegbeni Yakubu, a front pair who are a match for anyone when they put their mind to it. Their respective girths suggest that this is not as often as it could be, but on Saturday they did. Both were involved for the equaliser and Yakubu scored a superb individual third. In between the pressure they bring to bear on defences may have contributed to the uncharacteristic blunder by which Hermann Hreidarsson gifted Julio Arca the second.
With such players Boro ought to be competing in Europe, or at least for a place there, not scrambling to avoid relegation. Southgate, proving he has learnt quickly the management art of lowering expectations, dissented. "I think we have got a team in transition and a lot of young players," he said. "We have suffered a little bit of inconsistency, which you get with young players, but we have to roll with their learning experiences. It is the same for myself - I am learning all the time. We knew it would be a tough season. We are making progress but it's slow, and a little bit painful.
"I'm far more confident in the job as the weeks go by. You learn about yourself all the time but more importantly I'm learning about the people around me. I also see there's so much to be done. I am enjoying the challenge. One thing which has surprised me is the telephone bill. The transfer windows are incredible - my knowledge of world football and footballers is growing by the hour because I keep looking up names I've never heard of. It's all-consuming, you never switch off, but I'm enjoying it."
When Pardew was asked if he was "enjoying it", he responded: "It is a tough job, I am under no illusions."
He and Southgate go way back. Pardew was in the Crystal Palace midfield when Southgate made his League debut nearly 16 years ago. As a manager Pardew has since won promotions with Reading and West Ham and, increasingly, it seems it may have been that aspect of his CV which attracted Charlton.
Their plight was symbolised by Souleymane Diawara, an Iain Dowie signing who had been heavily criticised by the chairman, Richard Murray. His whole-hearted commitment won a series of tackles and headers and the cheers of previously critical fans.
But commitment only goes so far. Boro's equaliser came because, having been beaten to a loose ball by Yakubu, Diawara followed the ball. When Stuart Downing passed back inside, Hreidarsson and the left-back Ben Thatcher had to come across to mark the strikers leaving Lee Cattermole free. Yakubu cleverly let the ball run. Viduka slipped it to Cattermole. He picked his spot and Charlton never recovered.
Goals: Hasselbaink (27) 1-0; Cattermole (45) 1-1; Arca (63) 1-2; Yakubu (68) 1-3.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; El Karkouri, Diawara, Hreidarsson, Thatcher; Rommedahl (Thomas, 83), Holland, Reid, Ambrose (Hughes, 83); M Bent (Sam 74), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Randolph (gk), Faye.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Xavier, Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor; Cattermole, Boateng (Morrison, 74), Arca, Downing; Viduka (Euell, 90), Yakubu (Christie, 83). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Davies.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Charlton Hasselbaink, Holland, Ambrose; Middlesbrough Cattermole.
Man of the match: Boateng.
Attendance: 26,384.Reuse content