A spirited second-half performance by Preston North End put the wind up promotion-chasing Middlesbrough but was not enough to prevent them leaving the Riverside Stadium empty-handed.
Albert Adomah's 32nd minute goal settled this contest in the home side's favour although PNE will count themselves unlucky not to have taken a point.
They had started the game well before their confidence took a knock with the Boro goal, with them then playing second fiddle for the remainder of the first half.
But Simon Grayson's men were much improved after the break and were the better side for long spells.
Eoin Doyle saw a shot cleared off the line by George Friend, while a fantastic save from home goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos kept out a rocket shot from Marnick Vermijl.
The winner from Adomah had a bit of good fortune about it, Bailey Wright losing his footing which allowed the Boro winger to get his shot away.
Vermijl, Paul Huntington, Daniel Johnson, Doyle and Callum Robinson came into the starting XI on Teesside.
Tom Clarke, Calum Woods and Jordan Hugill missed out through injury, Alan Browne dropped down to the bench and Adam Reach was ineligible to face his parent club.
Clarke (head), Woods (calf) and Hugill (ankle) were all hurt in Tuesday night's 2-1 home defeat to Fulham.
North End only named six substitutes because of the injuries, the bench including teenager Clive Smith.
The visitors started brightly enough in a 4-1-3-2 system, one which saw Ben Pearson at the base of midfield.
Paul Gallagher, Johnson and Robinson were spread across the pitch in midfield, with Doyle partnering Joe Garner up front.
In the 11th minute, Gallagher's searching cross was about to find the head of Robinson at the far post but Daniel Ayala got in a timely interception to clear.
PNE's next attack saw Johnson's pass find Garner on the edge of the box, his shot charged down by Ben Gibson.
Boro threatened when George Friend's cross from the left found Cristhian Stuani in the box, his downward header saved at the foot of the post by Anders Lindeegaard.
Garner scuffed a shot across goal and well wide after being found by Greg Cunningham's ball.
That chance gave way to a good spell of pressure from the hosts, during which they took the lead.
Boro had knocked on the door with David Nugent looping a header too high before the former Preston man went closer.
Lindegaard dropped a cross from the right-wing, the ball falling to Nugent eight yards out.
He appeared to get knocked by Lindegaard as he brought it under control but still got a shot away, Huntington making a fine block on the edge of the six-yard box to stop it going in.
The deadlock was broken in the 32nd minute, Friend's low cross finding Adomah in the box.
Bailey Wright lost his footing as he moved to challenge, that giving Adomah the time to take a touch and slip a shot past Lindegaard from five yards.
It was all Boro after that until the interval and Nugent should have doubled the advantage in the 45th minute.
Ayala's pass sent the striker clear on goal, Huntington got back to force him on to his left foot, Nugent still getting a shot away but one which was well saved by Lindegaard.
Preston were much improved after the break, Huntington putting a header wide after the home defence had only partly cleared their lines from a Gallagher free-kick.
There was a close call for the visitors in the 53rd minute though, Grant Leadbitter's free-kick catching a deflection off the PNE wall and flashing inches wide.
With an hour gone, Pearson's cross was met on the volley by Doyle, it hitting the leg of Ayala and going behind for a corner.
Jermaine Beckford and John Welsh were introduced from the bench in the 62nd minute in place of Robinson and Pearson.
Straight after that double change, North End came within a whisker of an equaliser.
Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos fumbled a cross, Huntington stabbing an effort at goal which was blocked.
The rebound fell to Doyle whose shot looked to be creeping in by the post until it was hacked off the line by left-back Friend.
North End maintained their pressure with Garner sending a 20-yard shot skidding just wide before it needed a stunning save from Konstantopoulos to prevent PNE levelling.
A ball into the box from the Preston left was knocked down by Gallagher into the path of Vermijl who hit a powerful first-time drive.
It had goal written all over it until the keeper got behind the shot to parry it out.
A rare second-half attack from the home side saw Lindegaard save with his legs in the six-yard to keep out Adomah's shot.
In the closing minutes, Boro were forced to run down the clock as Preston pressed for an equaliser.
At one stage, the home side's goalkeeper coach was warned by referee Oliver Langford for not giving the ball back to PNE when it went out for a throw-in.
The hosts saw the game out, North End unable to turn their late pressure into worthwhile chances.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter, Forshaw, Stuani (Downing 63), Ramirez (Clayton 68), Adomah, Nugent. Subs (not used): Rhodes, De Sart, De Laet, Kalas, Agazzi.
PNE: Lindegaard, Vermijl, Huntington, Wright, Cunningham, Pearson (Welsh 62), Gallagher, Johnson, Doyle, Robinson (Beckford 62), Garner. Subs (not used): Kilkenny, Browne, Smith, Kirkland.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)
Attendance: 26,390 (771 PNE)