Two goals by Tuncay Sanli, the second astonishingly gift-wrapped by Steve Sidwell two minutes from time, yesterday brought Gareth Southgate his first managerial conquest in five attempts over his former club Aston Villa.
On a filthy afternoon on which victory would have taken Villa above Manchester United and back into the top four, the Turk's sharp finishing did more than end one of the Premier League's three last unbeaten home records. It also handed a "Get out of Jail" card to Alfonso Alves following a miss shortly before that had to be seen to be believed.
From barely six yards and with Brad Friedel flat out after saving Didier Digard's skidding 30-yarder, Alves somehow shot wide by several feet – a howler that had Villa's manager Martin O'Neill stalking his technical area, head in hands.
Any thoughts of a permanent reprieve disappeared, though, after Alves had immediately been substituted. Sidwell wrong-footed Nigel Reo-Coker and Martin Laursen with a bizarrely inept pass back into his own area, leaving Tuncay to drill past Friedel at the near post. If Alves has not already bought his strike-partner a drink, he should do so without delay.
"Alves is such a good finisher that you are stunned when he does something like that," Southgate said. "But it was an afternoon for mistakes. We responded to a challenge and that's seven points from three away games, which probably makes this the best result since I became manager."
Sidwell had looked like being Villa's saviour when, having scored a beauty at Wigan two Sundays ago and seen his shot deflected in off John Carew in Prague on Thursday, he continued his impressive goals-per-games ratio.
Gabriel Agbonlahor's shot towards the end of the first half was blocked by Andrew Taylor, only for James Milner to float a deep cross that Sidwell nodded in.
That provided the perfect response to Villa's shock at falling behind three minutes earlier following another blunder, albeit one that paled against what came later. There was nothing unduly menacing about Stewart Downing's cross until Nicky Shorey, in attempting to head clear, cushioned the ball invitingly for Tuncay to shoot home from close range.
There's an adventurous edge to Middlesbrough's game these days and they were always a handful to opponents playing their seventh game in 22 days.
No-one was bolder than Downing on the saturated surface. Having earlier blazed one shot past the angle, he forced Friedel to pull down his powerful 30-yarder and, in his team's strong end to the first half, figured with Justin Hoyte and Tuncay in an excellent move that ended with Alves side-footing wide.
Villa, deprived by injury of Carew and the former Middlesbrough defender Luke Young, threatened before the break through Ashley Young's free-kick and more consistently after it. Agbonlahor and Milner brought further saves from the impressive Ross Turnbull. Young also put the goalkeeper's handling to the test and Agbonlahor's header bounced wide.
Young's clearance off the line, though, from Chris Riggott's header to a Gary O'Neil corner was a reminder of the counter-danger that eventually condemned them to a second successive League defeat and lifted Middlesbrough back to eighth.
Goals: Tuncay (34) 0-1; Sidwell (37) 1-1; Tuncay (88) 1-2 .
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Davies, Laursen, Shorey (Harewood, 70); Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Barry, Ashley Young; Milner, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Routledge, Gardner.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Turnbull; Hoyte, Riggott, Pogatetz, Taylor; Aliadière, Digard, O'Neil, Downing; Alves (Arca, 83), Tuncay. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Emnes, Johnson, Wheater, Grounds, Walker.
Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).
Booked: Aston Villa Milner, Young; Middlesbrough: Aliadière, Arca.
Man of the match: Tuncay Sanli.
Attendance: 36,672.Reuse content