Match ends, Millwall 0, Middlesbrough 2.
Millwall 0-2 Middlesbrough: Assombalonga & Fletcher boost Boro survival bid
Middlesbrough moved out of the Championship relegation zone after two second-half goals gave Neil Warnock's side victory at play-off hopefuls Millwall.
Ashley Fletcher raced away from the Lions defence and teed up Britt Assombalonga for a tap-in to open the scoring midway through the second period.
The hosts claimed a foul in the build-up, arguing Fletcher had tripped centre-back Jake Cooper while chasing a ball forward, but referee Tim Robinson waved play on.
Fletcher added a second from the penalty spot late on after being tripped by Cooper as the visitors secured their first win in three games.
The result lifted the Teessiders up to 18th in the table, and two points clear of the bottom three, before the rest of the midweek fixtures.
Warnock won his first game in charge of Boro at the end of last month, but the club travelled to London on the back of successive defeats against Hull City and QPR, which had seen them drop into the relegation places.
The visitors enjoyed the better of a first half of limited opportunities, as Paddy McNair had a fierce drive from outside the box tipped over by Lions keeper Bartosz Bialkowski.
McNair fired off target just after the restart from Marvin Johnson's cut-back, but the hosts showed more creativity after Connor Mahoney was introduced from the bench just after the hour mark.
Breathing space for Boro
Millwall striker Matt Smith saw a header brilliantly clawed away by Dejan Stojanovic on his goalline, and Mahoney then had a shot blocked by the Boro keeper.
The visitors subsequently took the lead against the run of play when Assombalonga netted after a counter-attack, and were presented with an opportunity to add a second when Fletcher was brought down after being sent one-on-one with Bialkowski from a smart through ball.
The win gives Boro breathing space over the bottom three, but fellow strugglers Hull and Stoke City face trips to Bristol City and Leeds United respectively before the weekend.
The club finishing 22nd could yet earn a reprieve from relegation should the English Football League deduct 12 points from Wigan Athletic for entering administration - although the Latics are appealing against the punishment.
Defeat left Millwall's play-off hopes in the balance as Gary Rowett saw his side's three-match unbeaten run come to an end and their winless streak at The Den stretch to seven league games.
The Lions were two points off the play-off places when the season resumed following the coronavirus pandemic last month, but only five points from as many games since the restart puts them five behind sixth-placed Cardiff City.
Millwall boss Gary Rowett (on Middlesbrough's first goal):
"What looked like a trip, what felt like a trip, was a trip. In a tight game, very physical, very direct, it always felt as though one moment would decide the game.
"I think I could have given that with my eyes closed. I've watched it about five times, it's a blatant foul.
"They've got a big one wrong, and it's cost us the game. I can only be disappointed with that. Those moments open the game up."
"We're still in the mix for the play-offs but we're running out of games. And if we play like that we won't get there anyway."
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock told BBC Tees:
"This was different from QPR the other day where they scored a magnificent goal and we were chasing shadows for long periods after that, today I don't think we ever let Millwall get a grip of the game.
"Apart from the one good save, we defended magnificently well.
"I was delighted with everyone today including every single substitute. The two strikers, I never seen them run so much, but in these circumstances, you've got to fight for every cause.
"It's delightful when a system you've only had 24 hours to work on pays off but we should've had a few more goals."
- 15PearceSubstituted forMahoneyat 63'minutes
- 5CooperBooked at 86mins
- 12RomeoSubstituted forMitchellat 83'minutes
- 6WilliamsSubstituted forMolumbyat 63'minutes
- 3WallaceSubstituted forFergusonat 83'minutes
- 8ThompsonSubstituted forBradshawat 63'minutes
- 29SpenceSubstituted forDijksteelat 83'minutes
- 17McNairSubstituted forClaytonat 82'minutes
- 16HowsonBooked at 90mins
- 22SavilleBooked at 70mins
- 9AssombalongaBooked at 66minsSubstituted forTavernierat 77'minutes
- Tim Robinson
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Millwall 0, Middlesbrough 2.
Attempt saved. Jake Cooper (Millwall) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jed Wallace.
Corner, Millwall. Conceded by George Saville.
Corner, Millwall. Conceded by Jonny Howson.
Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Billy Mitchell (Millwall).
Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Jake Cooper (Millwall) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough).
Goal! Millwall 0, Middlesbrough 2. Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the top left corner.
Jake Cooper (Millwall) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Penalty conceded by Jake Cooper (Millwall) after a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty Middlesbrough. Ashley Fletcher draws a foul in the penalty area.
Substitution, Millwall. Shane Ferguson replaces Murray Wallace.
Substitution, Millwall. Billy Mitchell replaces Mahlon Romeo.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Anfernee Dijksteel replaces Djed Spence.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Adam Clayton replaces Patrick McNair.
Corner, Millwall. Conceded by Ryan Shotton.
Attempt missed. Tom Bradshaw (Millwall) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jed Wallace with a cross following a set piece situation.