A Jordan Rhodes brace, including a 91st minute winner, helped Middlesbrough come from behind to overcome recently-relegated Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, to increase their lead at the summit of the Championship table.
Following a goalless first-half in the Greater Manchester sunshine, Wanderers took the lead on the hour-mark, courtesy of Josh Vela, who confidently drilled the hosts in-front from inside the penalty area.
However, Rhodes equalised from close-range for the promotion chasing Boro, before netting what proved to be the winner in injury time, when he glanced David Nugent’s cross into the net.
Interim-manager, Jimmy Phillips, made the three changes to his Bolton side, with Emile Heskey, Niall Maher and Mark Davies coming in for Kaiyne Woolery, Neil Danns and Liam Trotter, while Adam Forshaw replaced Grant Leadbitter for the visitors.
In the opening exchanges of the encounter, it would be Middlesbrough who created the first chance of the game when Albert Adomah’s cross from the left was met by Forshaw, who skewed a long-range shot over Ben Amos’ crossbar.
Adomah was next to test Wanderers’ back-line, when he found himself on the edge of the area, but his cross into the path of Adam Clayton came to nothing.
Centre-back Daniel Ayala went close minutes later from Stewart Downing’s corner from the right, though from a free-header, the Spaniard could only glance over.
With 23 minutes on the clock, Downing almost opened the scoring himself, when he collected the ball in space, and unleashed a drive from around 25-yards which thumped against the underside of the crossbar and onto the goal-line.
Up the other end, a mazy run from Trotters forward Zach Clough concluded in the youngster being crowded out, in a goal mouth scramble, the ball dropped to Mark Davies, who was unable to test Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Clough was involved in proceedings again in the final five minutes of the half, though his curled shot from the edge of the box landed on the roof of the net.
Boro had the final say in the opening 45 minutes – though it was to no avail, as Ritchie De Laet struck the way over the bar, after N’sue had laid the ball into his path, from Adomah’s teasing cross.
As play resumed for the second half, both sides looked to gain the advantage, and it would be the bottom side who took the lead on the hour-mark, thanks to Josh Vela.
From Dean Moxey’s long-throw, Vela profited from Emile Heskey’s lay-off to arrow the ball sweetly into the far corner beyond a static Konstantopoulos.
It was a short-lived lead for Bolton, as Rhodes was on hand to level the scores after 73 minutes played, a strike which restored parity.
From Forshaw’s cross, Rhodes’ initial shot was thwarted by David Wheater, only for the forward to follow up and net at the second attempt.
Substitute Gaston Ramirez should have added a second goal for Boro late in the game, but the Uruguayan, who was played in by De Laet’s ball, put his effort over the bar.
In the 91st minute, Rhodes proved to be the hero of the hour for Aitor Karanka’s side when he diverted a cross by substitute David Nugent past Amos and into the net to get his and Middlesbrough’s second of the game, to ensure that maximum points went back to Teesside.