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.

Match Stats

Shots

13 11

On target

7 6

Corners

4 5

Fouls

15 8

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +4:24 Full time

Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.

90:00 +3:46

Guy Moussi takes the free kick.

90:00 +3:46 Booking

Booking Angelo Miguel Vitor goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.

90:00 +3:43

Unfair challenge on Robbie Findley by Angelo Miguel Vitor results in a free kick.

90:00 +2:56

Outswinging corner taken by Paul Gallagher from the right by-line, save by Lee Camp.

90:00 +2:38

Handball by Robbie Findley. Paul Gallagher takes the indirect free kick.

90:00 +1:18

Chris Cohen crosses the ball.

89:41

Free kick awarded for a foul by Darius Vassell on Brendan Moloney. Free kick taken by Wes Morgan.

88:09

Brendan Moloney delivers the ball, clearance made by Ben Mee. Short corner taken by Chris Cohen from the right by-line.

86:43

The ball is sent over by Brendan Moloney, clearance made by Angelo Miguel Vitor.

85:30 Substitution

Substitution David McGoldrick replaces Lewis McGugan.

83:30

Kris Boyd provided the assist for the goal.

83:30 Goal scored

Goal! - Paul McKenna - Nott'm For 3 - 2 Leicester Paul McKenna scores a goal from just inside the area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Nottm Forest 3-2 Leicester.

82:51

Yuki Abe gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Lewis McGugan. Direct free kick taken by Lee Camp.

81:51

Robbie Findley produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand upright.

80:07

Corner taken right-footed by Paul Gallagher from the right by-line, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Ben Mee misses to the right of the target.

79:04

Direct free kick taken by Ben Mee.

79:04 Substitution

Substitution Robbie Findley comes on in place of Robert Earnshaw.

79:04

Paul McKenna gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Paul Gallagher.

78:25

Unfair challenge on Richie Wellens by Paul McKenna results in a free kick. Paul Gallagher crosses the ball, Jeffrey Bruma takes a shot. Comfortable save by Lee Camp.

76:37

Darius Vassell takes a shot. Blocked by Wes Morgan. Corner taken by Paul Gallagher from the right by-line played to the near post, Ben Mee takes a shot.

75:25 Substitution

Substitution Steve Howard joins the action as a substitute, replacing Diomansy Kamara.

74:45

Lee Camp restarts play with the free kick.

74:45 Substitution

Substitution Kris Boyd is brought on as a substitute for Marcus Tudgay.

74:45

Ben Mee challenges Marcus Tudgay unfairly and gives away a free kick.

73:22

Kyle Naughton provided the assist for the goal.

73:22 Goal scored

Goal! - Darius Vassell - Nott'm For 2 - 2 Leicester Darius Vassell scores a goal from close in to the top left corner of the goal. Nottm Forest 2-2 Leicester.

73:02

Luke Chambers concedes a free kick for a foul on Darius Vassell. Paul Gallagher takes the free kick.

72:13

Lewis McGugan provided the assist for the goal.

72:13 Goal scored

Goal! - Robert Earnshaw - Nott'm For 2 - 1 Leicester A goal is scored by Robert Earnshaw from inside the box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Nottm Forest 2-1 Leicester.

72:00

Lewis McGugan has an effort at goal from 25 yards. Save by Chris Weale.

70:21

The ball is crossed by Ben Mee, Wes Morgan makes a clearance.

69:14

The assistant referee signals for offside against Robert Earnshaw. Chris Weale restarts play with the free kick.

67:24

Richie Wellens produces a cross, blocked by Brendan Moloney. Inswinging corner taken by Paul Gallagher from the left by-line.

66:22

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Richie Wellens by Paul McKenna. Direct free kick taken by Ben Mee.

64:27

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Paul Gallagher from the left by-line, save by Lee Camp.

63:46

Marcus Tudgay concedes a free kick for a foul on Angelo Miguel Vitor. Angelo Miguel Vitor takes the direct free kick.

61:42

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Paul McKenna by Richie Wellens. Chris Cohen restarts play with the free kick.

60:33

Andy King concedes a free kick for a foul on Luke Chambers. Lee Camp takes the free kick.

59:28

Robert Earnshaw takes a shot. Save made by Chris Weale.

57:51

Darius Vassell is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Indirect free kick taken by Wes Morgan.

56:08 Substitution

Substitution Darius Vassell on for Ayegbeni Yakubu.

56:08

Corner taken right-footed by Lewis McGugan from the left by-line to the near post, Marcus Tudgay has a headed effort from close range and clears the crossbar.

55:37

The offside flag is raised against Diomansy Kamara. Lee Camp restarts play with the free kick.

55:22

Guy Moussi gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Richie Wellens. Free kick taken by Ben Mee.

54:21

Ayegbeni Yakubu is ruled offside. Luke Chambers restarts play with the free kick.

53:32

The assistant referee flags for offside against Robert Earnshaw. Indirect free kick taken by Chris Weale.

52:45

Lewis McGugan challenges Richie Wellens unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Richie Wellens.

51:10

Foul by Wes Morgan on Richie Wellens, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Diomansy Kamara.

50:37

Robert Earnshaw takes a shot. Save by Chris Weale.

50:07

Unfair challenge on Richie Wellens by Lewis McGugan results in a free kick. Richie Wellens takes the free kick.

49:30 Substitution

Substitution Matt Oakley leaves the field to be replaced by Yuki Abe.

48:29

Corner taken by Lewis McGugan.

45:33

Lewis McGugan takes a inswinging corner to the near post, Jeffrey Bruma manages to make a clearance.

45:01

The referee starts the second half.

45:00 +1:06 Half time

Half Time The referee blows for half time.

44:50

Andy King takes a shot. Blocked by Guy Moussi.

43:08

Jeffrey Bruma fouled by Robert Earnshaw, the ref awards a free kick. Chris Weale takes the free kick.

42:06

Shot by Ayegbeni Yakubu from 20 yards. Save made by Lee Camp.

36:50

Ben Mee crosses the ball.

35:02

Effort from outside the penalty box by Marcus Tudgay goes wide right of the goal.

34:16

Chris Cohen has a drilled shot. Save by Chris Weale.

31:42

Free kick awarded for a foul by Andy King on Chris Cohen. Lewis McGugan delivers the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Marcus Tudgay misses to the right of the goal.

31:01

The ball is swung over by Richie Wellens, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Diomansy Kamara misses to the right of the target.

29:22

A cross is delivered by Lewis McGugan, save by Chris Weale.

28:09

Guy Moussi concedes a free kick for a foul on Diomansy Kamara. Richie Wellens restarts play with the free kick.

27:28

Ben Mee takes a shot. Save by Lee Camp.

27:19

Unfair challenge on Ayegbeni Yakubu by Luke Chambers results in a free kick. Ayegbeni Yakubu takes the free kick.

25:32

Chris Cohen concedes a free kick for a foul on Kyle Naughton. Chris Weale takes the free kick.

24:06

Diomansy Kamara produces a left-footed shot from outside the penalty box and misses wide left of the target.

22:45

Ayegbeni Yakubu crosses the ball, Paul McKenna makes a clearance.

21:28

Robert Earnshaw concedes a free kick for a foul on Angelo Miguel Vitor. Free kick taken by Matt Oakley.

20:00 Goal scored

Goal! - Matt Oakley - Nott'm For 1 - 1 Leicester Matt Oakley finds the back of the net with a goal from just outside the penalty box to the top left corner of the goal. Nottm Forest 1-1 Leicester.

19:52

The ball is delivered by Kyle Naughton.

16:59

Ayegbeni Yakubu is caught offside. Luke Chambers restarts play with the free kick.

16:15

Robert Earnshaw has an effort at goal from a long way out that misses to the right of the goal.

15:28

The ball is sent over by Paul Gallagher.

14:16

The assist for the goal came from Lewis McGugan.

14:16 Goal scored

Goal! - Marcus Tudgay - Nott'm For 1 - 0 Leicester Marcus Tudgay finds the net with a headed goal from close range. Nottm Forest 1-0 Leicester.

13:19

Shot from just outside the area by Lewis McGugan goes over the bar.

11:07

Free kick awarded for a foul by Robert Earnshaw on Ben Mee. Ben Mee restarts play with the free kick.

10:16

Direct free kick taken by Chris Cohen.

10:16 Booking

Booking Diomansy Kamara goes into the referee's book for unsporting behaviour.

10:10

Diomansy Kamara concedes a free kick for a foul on Lewis McGugan.

4:37

The ball is swung over by Paul McKenna, Angelo Miguel Vitor makes a clearance.

3:53

The ball is swung over by Chris Cohen, clearance by Angelo Miguel Vitor.

3:28

Paul McKenna delivers the ball.

0:42

Kyle Naughton sends in a cross, clearance by Wes Morgan.

0:00

The ref blows the whistle to start the match.

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