Cardiff 0 - 3 Middlesbrough
Cardiff's automatic promotion hopes are ended as Middlesbrough beat them 3-0 before Norwich won at Portsmouth to move into the Premier League.
Boro were three ahead inside 22 minutes after Leroy Lita's header from Tony McMahon's cross beat Tom Heaton.
Barry Robson's flick from Lita's cross doubled the lead as Boro once again exposed Cardiff's defensive frailties.
Richard Smallwood's close-range third meant Norwich would clinch promotion if they beat Portsmouth.
And indeed Simeon Jackson's winner at Fratton Park then secured a 1-0 Norwich win over Portsmouth to secure a top-flight return after a six-year absence.
So Cardiff's first defeat in nine games and Norwich's subsequent triumph guarantees Norwich a second automatic promotion spot alongside Queens Park Rangers. However, QPR's position depends on the outcome of their FA hearing over breaching league rules .
It was the Bluebirds' heaviest home defeat to Middlesbrough for two years and means they are in the play-offs for a second successive season after 2010's failure in the final.
Cardiff manager Dave Jones had deflected any pre-match suggestions of pressure even though the Welsh club knew nothing less than victory over Middlesbrough would help secure the Championship's second automatic promotion spot.
The tension at the Cardiff City Stadium was exacerbated when the team, who had lost once at home since November, were three goals down inside 22 minutes.
The rout began in the opening 150 seconds when McMahon's deep, hanging right-wing cross was not dealt with by Cardiff's defence and Lita rose above Kevin McNaughton and Dekel Keinan to guide a header home.
What Lita's effort lacked in power, it made up for in direction as it beat goalkeeper Tom Heaton from 12 yards for his 11th of the season, and 99th of his club career.
Lita soon turned provider when he was allowed time by Keinan to fire a low shot across the six-yard box that Boro midfielder Barry Robson poked into the far corner of the net past Heaton.
The Scotsman's fourth goal of the season exposed more abysmal Bluebirds defending as Robson's fellow countryman and newly-crowned Cardiff fans Player of the Year McNaughton was beaten to the ball again.
Captain Craig Bellamy, so often Cardiff's talisman this season, claimed for a penalty when his 25-yard free-kick struck Robson's arm in the wall just inside the area - but referee Gerald Scott ignored the protests.
A poor cross from Jay Bothroyd when Cardiff had men in the danger area, two squandered Seyi Olofinjana openings and a Bothroyd curling shot wide were the best attempts the hosts could offer.
And the Bluebirds' automatic promotion bid looked over when they conceded a third for the first time in a regular-season league game at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Jlloyd Samuel let Marvin Emnes reach the byline, and the former Swansea striker's cutback was smashed into the corner of Heaton's net from 12 yards by Smallwood.
The Boro academy product's first professional goal marked the third successive away game in which Tony Mowbray's side had scored three. It prompted some fuming Cardiff fans to head for the exit.
A Keinan snap-shot from Chris Burke's corner missed the target from 12 yards just after Jones had hauled Samuel off the pitch. Jason Koumas came on, no doubt in the hope of creating a footballing miracle.
Both Bellamy and Olofinjana had goals disallowed for offside either side of an interval that was welcomed by the chorus of boos from home supporters.
Cardiff could not fail to improve in the second half which started by McNaughton almost squeezing Bellamy's inswinging right-wing cross home at the back post - but the defender could not guide his flick goalwards.
The languid Bothroyd fired over before Burke did likewise as Cardiff slumped to their first home defeat to Boro since 1970 - and just their fourth home defeat this season.
Another penalty appeal was turned down late on as Olofinjana's shot was blocked by the arm of Stephen McManus but Boro comfortably held on.
Manager Mowbray insisted pre-match he had wanted his men to be Cardiff's promotion party poopers and it was mission accomplished as Cardiff will need to go through the play-offs if their 49-year top-flight absence is to end this season.
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle is blown by the referee.90:00 +2:14
Darcy Blake takes a shot. Save made by Jason Steele.90:00 +0:31
Jay Bothroyd produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.88:46
The ball is sent over by Kevin McNaughton.88:30
Peter Whittingham decides to take a short corner.88:00
Michael Chopra takes a shot. Jason Steele makes a save.85:32 Substitution
Substitution Willo Flood on for Barry Robson.84:22
Peter Whittingham challenges Barry Robson unfairly and gives away a free kick. Stephen McManus takes the free kick.82:01
Rhys Williams restarts play with the free kick.82:01 Booking
Booking Caution for Craig Bellamy.81:37
Free kick awarded for a foul by Seyi Olofinjana on Barry Robson.80:38
Seyi Olofinjana takes a shot. Blocked by Kevin Thomson.79:41
Tony McMahon concedes a free kick for a foul on Jay Bothroyd. Peter Whittingham takes the direct free kick.79:03 Booking
Booking Jason Steele receives a caution.77:49
Unfair challenge on Barry Robson by Michael Chopra results in a free kick. Kevin Thomson restarts play with the free kick.77:07
The ball is crossed by Kevin Thomson.73:50
Chris Burke produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that goes wide left of the goal.72:50
Corner taken by Chris Burke from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance made by Barry Robson.72:07
Corner taken by Chris Burke, clearance made by Leroy Lita.71:01 Substitution
Substitution Paul Quinn leaves the field to be replaced by Michael Chopra.
The official flags Craig Bellamy offside. Free kick taken by Jason Steele.67:50
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Jason Koumas.67:30
Craig Bellamy takes a shot. Blocked by Rhys Williams.66:50
Tom Heaton takes the direct free kick.66:50 Booking
Booking Rhys Williams receives a caution.66:00
Rhys Williams challenges Craig Bellamy unfairly and gives away a free kick.65:16
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jonathan Franks by Jason Koumas. Tony McMahon takes the free kick.61:09 Substitution
Substitution Marvin Emnes goes off and Jonathan Franks comes on.60:57 Booking
Booking Marvin Emnes goes into the book.59:05
Leroy Lita takes a shot. Kevin McNaughton gets a block in.56:49
The free kick is delivered right-footed by Peter Whittingham from right channel, clearance made by Rhys Williams.56:49 Booking
Booking The referee cautions Kevin Thomson for unsporting behaviour.56:39
Foul by Kevin Thomson on Paul Quinn, free kick awarded.55:41
Direct free kick taken by Paul Quinn.55:41 Booking
Booking Booking for Richard Smallwood for unsporting behaviour.54:39
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Peter Whittingham by Richard Smallwood.52:57
Corner taken right-footed by Jay Bothroyd, Effort on goal by Chris Burke from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.50:56
Jay Bothroyd produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the goal.48:02
Seyi Olofinjana gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen McManus. Free kick taken by Jason Steele.45:38
The ball is swung over by Craig Bellamy, Close range effort by Kevin McNaughton clears the crossbar.45:19
The ball is sent over by Craig Bellamy, Tony McMahon makes a clearance.45:01
The second half has started.45:01 Substitution
Substitution (Cardiff) makes a substitution, with Darcy Blake coming on for Stephen McPhail.45:00 +3:15 Half time
Half Time It is the end of the first-half.45:00 +3:05
The assistant referee signals for offside against Craig Bellamy. Jason Steele takes the indirect free kick.45:00 +1:47
Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Jason Koumas, Effort from inside the area by Peter Whittingham misses to the left of the target.45:00 +1:00
Seyi Olofinjana takes a shot. Blocked by Rhys Williams.42:44
Barry Robson concedes a free kick for a foul on Jay Bothroyd. Dekel Keinan takes the free kick.40:35
Effort from the edge of the area by Jay Bothroyd goes wide of the left-hand upright.39:16
The offside flag is raised against Craig Bellamy. Jason Steele takes the free kick.38:31
Unfair challenge on Marvin Emnes by Dekel Keinan results in a free kick. Kevin Thomson takes the free kick.37:39
Free kick taken by Richard Smallwood.37:39 Booking
Booking Dekel Keinan goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.37:25
Unfair challenge on Leroy Lita by Dekel Keinan results in a free kick.35:49
Free kick taken by Jason Steele.35:49 Booking
Booking Jay Bothroyd is shown a yellow card.35:42
Jay Bothroyd gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Tony McMahon.34:42
Foul by Paul Quinn on Marvin Emnes, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Andrew Taylor.33:17
Unfair challenge on Barry Robson by Jay Bothroyd results in a free kick. Leroy Lita restarts play with the free kick.32:15
The official flags Craig Bellamy offside. Free kick taken by Jason Steele.31:30
Outswinging corner taken right-footed by Chris Burke, Richard Smallwood makes a clearance.30:46
Outswinging corner taken by Peter Whittingham from the right by-line, clearance made by Justin Hoyte.30:46 Substitution
Substitution Jason Koumas is brought on as a substitute for Jlloyd Samuel.30:19
Jay Bothroyd takes a shot. Justin Hoyte gets a block in.29:36
Craig Bellamy is ruled offside. Jason Steele takes the free kick.26:59
Unfair challenge on Leroy Lita by Jlloyd Samuel results in a free kick. Tony McMahon takes the free kick.26:11
Peter Whittingham fouled by Leroy Lita, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Craig Bellamy, Jason Steele makes a save.25:49
Craig Bellamy sends in a cross.24:49
Free kick taken by Jlloyd Samuel.24:49 Booking
Booking Booking for Justin Hoyte.24:28
Unfair challenge on Stephen McPhail by Justin Hoyte results in a free kick.20:26
Marvin Emnes provided the assist for the goal.20:26 Goal scored
Goal! - Richard Smallwood - Cardiff 0 - 3 Middlesbro A goal is scored by Richard Smallwood from inside the box to the bottom left corner of the goal. Cardiff 0-3 Middlesbrough.18:39
Foul by Craig Bellamy on Kevin Thomson, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Jason Steele.15:20
Rhys Williams concedes a free kick for a foul on Craig Bellamy. Craig Bellamy takes the direct free kick.12:17
Assist by Leroy Lita.12:17 Goal scored
Goal! - Barry Robson - Cardiff 0 - 2 Middlesbro Barry Robson grabs a goal from inside the six-yard box to the bottom right corner of the goal. Cardiff 0-2 Middlesbrough.11:46
Foul by Stephen McPhail on Barry Robson, free kick awarded. Jason Steele takes the free kick.11:19
A cross is delivered by Craig Bellamy.9:45
Inswinging corner taken by Tony McMahon from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Jay Bothroyd.9:07
The ball is crossed by Chris Burke, save by Jason Steele.8:20
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is caught offside. Direct free kick taken by Jason Steele.7:20
Barry Robson takes a shot. Save made by Tom Heaton.4:23
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marvin Emnes by Dekel Keinan. Direct free kick taken by Tony McMahon.2:40
The assist for the goal came from Tony McMahon.2:40 Goal scored
Goal! - Leroy Lita - Cardiff 0 - 1 Middlesbro Leroy Lita finds the net with a headed goal from inside the penalty area. Cardiff 0-1 Middlesbrough.0:00
The ref blows the whistle to begin the match.
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