Paul McKenna struck a late winner as Nottingham Forest defeated Leicester in a nervous and edgy contest to provide a much-needed shot in the arm to their prospects of reaching the Championship play-offs.

Forest took the lead three times against the Foxes and moved above Leeds and into sixth place after effectively ending their opponent's fading chances of promotion.

Marcus Tudgay headed Forest in front before Matt Oakley soon equalised with a fierce strike from 20 yards.

Rob Earnshaw slotted home a low strike into the bottom corner after the break but the Foxes levelled a minute later when substitute Darius Vassell stabbed the ball home after Lee Camp could not hold Kyle Naughton's effort.

It is little wonder that Billy Davies wastes no opportunity to remind everybody that there will be plenty of twists and turns before the end of the season

BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher

McKenna then saw his weak strike somehow elude the dive of Leicester keeper Chris Weale as Forest won for only the second time in 12 league fixtures.

And with play-off rivals Leeds drawing 0-0 with Reading  later on Friday evening, Billy Davies and his team remained in the top six, albeit on goal difference above the Yorkshire club with both sides on 66 points.

Even so, the result will give Forest a real lift as they go into the final three fixtures of the regular season, with games against Bristol City, Scunthorpe and Crystal Palace.

Leicester had the better of much of Friday's contest but the defeat leaves them six points adrift of the top six with three games left.

The Foxes knew they had to win the match and started with the greatest sense of urgency, but they intially failed to trouble the Forest backline.

Yakubu should have troubled the home defence after a slip from Wes Morgan left the on-loan striker with only Luke Chambers blocking his path to goal, but the Nigerian, who had an awful afternoon, tripped over the ball.

Davies's decision to recall Tudgay was justified when the striker headed Forest in front after 15 minutes from Lewis McGugan's teasing right-wing cross.

Leicester captain Matt Oakley celebrates

Oakley celebrates making it 1-1 with his superb strike

It was a precise header into the bottom corner by Tudgay for his first goal since 5 February, but his team only led for five minutes before Oakley equalised.

Forest appeared to have dealt with the danger when Guy Moussi cleared Paul Gallagher's effort from a tight angle but as the ball dropped just outside the edge of the box Foxes skipper Oakley launched his thunderous strike.

Camp was partially unsighted but got a firm hand on the ball and should arguably have saved the shot instead of deflecting it on to the post, with the ball then rebounding into the net.

The Forest keeper was called into action again when Ben Mee met a Gallagher pass with a crisp low strike, while Diomansy Kamara headed wastefully wide from an Andy King cross as Leicester started to dominate.

The stunned home supporters fell silent and were given little to encourage them before the break, although Weale saved at the feet of Earnshaw after the Wales striker nipped in between the keeper and Miguel Vitor, and then held a deflected low strike from Chris Cohen.

Neither team managed to exert much control on the game after the break, although Forest did create an opening after McKenna dispossessed Richie Wellens and then picked out Earnshaw, whose low strike lacked power and was easily saved.

Forest substitutes Kris Boyd and Robbie Findley were stripped and ready to come on when the home team took the lead for the second time, Earnshaw smashing home a rebound after Weale could only parry a fierce strike from McGugan.

But for the second time in the match Forest failed to consolidate after going in front and Foxes substitute Vassell fired home after Camp parried Naughton's effort.

It left 16 minutes for somebody to find a winner - and it came through Forest captain McKenna, although there did not seem to be much danger when the midfielder fired his relatively weak strike towards the near post.

The ball somehow slipped under the body of the unfortunate Weale as he dived to save the shot and at the third time of asking Forest held on to collect three points.

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