Boro quick out of the blocks to take the points
Middlesbrough showed their promotion credentials with a quickfire start ending Town’s unbeaten home record.
The visitors, among the bookies’ favourites to go up, were two up inside the first 15 minutes through Mo Besic and Stewart Downing.
Town took a while to recover but carried much more of a threat after the break, with Freddie Sears going close and Darren Randolph denying Trevoh Chalobah at full stretch but Boro held on without too many scares.
Town made two changes from the team that drew with Birmingham on Saturday, Jordan Graham in for Gwion Edwards with Janoi Donacien replacing the suspended Matt Pennington.
Luke Chambers was in the right place to stop Jordan Hugill getting on the end of George Friend’s cross but Boro were ahead on 11 minutes, Besic breaking from midfield and getting fortunate with his initial shot, the ball cannoning back to him before he buried his shot into the bottom corner.
Downing threatened a second until Toto Nsiala’s intervention, Chambers holding firm from Hugill’s challenge but Town were two down on 16 minutes, the skipper losing possession and Downing weaving his way inside Blues’ box before beating Dean Gerken.
Town’s keeper stuck out a strong right hand to prevent Friend’s vicious strike finding the bottom corner, Chalobah clearing from Martin Braithwaite’s cross as Blues tried to get a foothold in the game.
Graham was inches away from getting on the end of Grant Ward’s cross, Ward then denied as he worked his way to goal as Blues began to get back in the game after Boro’s early onslaught, Jonas Knudsen heading just over at the far post.
Darren Randolph held on from Chalobah’s strike as the half came to an end with the visitors in control.
Sears and Edwards replaced Graham and Kayden Jackson at the break and Town started brightly, Jon Nolan heading over from Donacien’s cross, then Sears firing over after a surging run.
The two substitutes then combined down the right, Sears releasing Edwards, his cross headed away by Daniel Ayala as Chalobah challenged, the Chelsea loanee turned provider seconds later but Ward couldn’t get on the end of the cross at the far post.
Cole Skuse twice came to Town’s rescue on the hour, heading off the line from Ayala, then blocking the follow up effort from point blank range, Hugill then heading over from Downing’s volleyed cross.
Hugill went down under Donacien’s challenge but referee Andrew Madley waved away the penalty appeals, the West Ham loanee fizzing a shot past Gerken’s far post before making way for Britt Assombalonga.
Paddy McNair replaced Martin Braithwaite in Boro’s second change, Chalobah forcing an excellent save from Randolph at full stretch as Town searched for a lifeline.
Andre Dozzell came on for his first appearance of the season, Nolan making way for the last 15 minutes, Donacien then whipping in a terrific cross that just needed a touch but to no avail.
Chambers did superbly to thwart Assombalonga as Boro looked to seal the win but the damage was done in that first quarter hour.
Town: Gerken, Donacien, Chambers, Nsiala, Knudsen, Graham (Edwards 46), Nolan (Dozzell 75), Chalobah, Skuse, Ward, Jackson (Sears 46). Subs not used: Bialkowski, Spence, Downes, Edun.
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Shotton, Braithwaite (McNair 69), Hugill (Assombalonga 65), Howson, Downing, Saville, Flint, Besic (McQueen 81). Subs not used: Lonergan, Batth, Fry, Gestede.