Match ends, Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 1.
Middlesbrough survived a Cardiff scare to move second in the Championship.
Chelsea loanee Patrick Bamford tucked in Adam Reach's cross from close range to edge Boro in front on 63 minutes.
Kike should have made it comfortable but put a headed chance wide, before Reach was once again the provider, squaring for Lee Tomlin to finish.
Cardiff's Kenwyne Jones headed in Joe Ralls' cross with five minutes left, but Boro, who have lost just once in 15 games, held on for the three points.
It was the second time in four days that Cardiff almost staged a late comeback, having lost 3-2 at Norwich on Saturday after being 3-0 down.
But Boro had just enough to come through an uninspiring contest and move above Ipswich on goal difference. They are now within one point of leaders Bournemouth, who lost 1-0 at Leeds United.
Cardiff have recorded just one win on the road, but they looked to contain a Middlesbrough side that had won their last three at the Riverside.
Boro created plenty of chances in the opening period, with George Friend heading wide a rare opportunity.
After the break Cardiff protested at referee Geoff Eltringham, with the visitors claiming Adam Clayton's tackle on Alex Revell was two-footed, but the midfielder was only shown a yellow card.
Eventually, Bamford scored his ninth of the season when Tomlin released Reach, who fired across for the youngster to stroke home.
Bamford then provided a cross that Kike should really have headed in, but Reach was once again racing to the by-line and was able to pick out Tomlin for Boro's second.
Aron Gunnarsson had already looped an effort wide as the Bluebirds looked to respond, and even though Jones became the first man to score past Middlesbrough since 20 December, Aitor Karanka's side lifted themselves into the automatic promotion spots.
Middlesbrough face Manchester City in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday and manager Aitor Karanka said:
"I am looking forward to it. We are going to go to that game in the best shape. We have had six points from our last two games but it will be a very big challenge.
"They have one of the best squads in the league but sometimes surprises can happen."
Cardiff City manager Russell Slade:
"Maybe the first goal was crucial and they got that. It was frustrating because we started the second half well and from a counter-attack they hurt us.
"I was pleased with the defensive set-up and we were much more compact. But, ultimately, we've come away from two away games with no points and that's frustrating."
- 26KalasSubstituted forWhiteheadat 90+3'minutes
- 8ClaytonBooked at 56mins
- 7LeadbitterBooked at 62mins
- 10TomlinSubstituted forVossenat 85'minutesBooked at 90mins
- 9KikeSubstituted forAdomahat 74'minutes
- 2BrayfordBooked at 33mins
- 18AdeyemiSubstituted forRallsat 77'minutes
- 11NooneSubstituted forMachedaat 87'minutes
- 40K Harris
- 29RevellSubstituted forJonesat 67'minutes
- 3da Silva
- 10Le Fondre
- Geoff Eltringham
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 1.
Offside, Cardiff City. Kenwyne Jones tries a through ball, but Kadeem Harris is caught offside.
Jelle Vossen (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Jelle Vossen (Middlesbrough).
Peter Whittingham (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Sean Morrison.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Dean Whitehead replaces Tomas Kalas because of an injury.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by John Brayford.
Adam Clayton (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Kadeem Harris (Cardiff City).
Substitution, Cardiff City. Federico Macheda replaces Craig Noone.
Goal! Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 1. Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Joe Ralls with a cross.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Jelle Vossen replaces Lee Tomlin.
Attempt saved. Craig Noone (Cardiff City) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Aron Gunnarsson.
Foul by Adam Reach (Middlesbrough).
Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 0. Lee Tomlin (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Adam Reach.
Attempt saved. Albert Adomah (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Substitution, Cardiff City. Joe Ralls replaces Tom Adeyemi.