Match ends, Middlesbrough 1, Cardiff City 1.
Middlesbrough ended Cardiff City's run of successive wins as Paddy McNair's close-range finish earned them a point in a 1-1 draw at the Riverside.
The visitors were second best in the first half but took the lead against the run of play through a Sean Morrison header on 37 minutes.
But McNair was able to get the vital touch after Aden Flint failed to clear late on.
The draw sees Cardiff slip to eighth in the Championship and out of the play-off places, while Middlesbrough remain ninth.
Cardiff's revival under McCarthy has been nothing short of incredible. The Bluebirds were 15th in the Championship when he took charge, but they have taken 21 points from a possible 27 since then and are a side positively brimming with confidence.
The attention in this contest was always likely to centre around the two managers, who have managed 2,480 matches between them and who are both extremely popular figures in the Welsh capital.
McCarthy (912 games as manager) and former Bluebirds boss Warnock (1,568 games) have both presided over big turnarounds in fortune for the South Wales club, with Cardiff heading into Saturday's contest as the form side in the Championship.
Former team-mates at Barnsley, where McCarthy served as Warnock's apprentice, both veteran managers are eyeing a play-off berth, with just three points separating their sides.
The Bluebirds, who came into this contest having won six on the spin, unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting line-up, while Warnock opted to make four changes to the side beaten in midweek by Bristol City.
Middlesbrough have taken just one point from their past five league matches against Cardiff, while their poor home form is almost entirely to blame them not being higher in the Championship.
Warnock's changes included a start for former Cardiff forward Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, who was sacked by the Bluebirds in September 2020 after testing positive for cocaine for the second time, a doping violation that saw him serve a three-month suspension.
It seemed certain that set-pieces would have an influence in this contest, and it so it proved - the game's first chance coming when Harry Wilson's curling free-kick was tipped away by Marcus Bettinelli on eight minutes.
The hosts began to grow into the game and were exerting pressure, but McNair fired wide from a free-kick and Mendez-Laing just failed to control a poor Will Vaulks header back towards his goalkeeper.
Middlesbrough were on top and should have led when Britt Assombalonga went clean through after Jonny Howson's well-weighted pass, but Dillon Phillips produced a smart save at the near post.
The chances kept coming for the hosts - Grant Hall heading wide from Mendez-Laing's cross and Duncan Watmore seeing his shot brilliantly blocked by Curtis Nelson.
The misses proved crucial as the Bluebirds then took the lead on 37 minutes from just their second attempt on goal, Morrison glancing home from Vaulks' massive long throw.
Middlesbrough had lost more home league matches in 2021 than any other Championship side going into this one, and a lack of confidence was evident in the second period as they huffed and puffed without fashioning clear chances.
However, with eight minutes left, Flint's poor clearance bounced around the box and McNair reacted quickest to stab the ball in from close range.
The equaliser means Cardiff's winning run is halted, but they remain unbeaten in nine matches since McCarthy's appointment.
Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock said:
"We enjoyed it today. I've been on at them all week about how difficult it will be because of the way they play.
"The lads competed other than the goal and we played some good stuff at times. We passed it well.
"The goal came and the lads on the bench said let's make sure we don't give it away, I said let's go and win it.
"You only have to look at the stats, we dominated the game really. We had one or two really good performances. It's a promising game in the circumstances.
"I was ever so pleased with the substitutes, all of them, and we needed that."
Cardiff boss Mick McCarthy said:
"I think a draw was fair, yes, I couldn't sit here and say we deserved to win the game.
"I can sit here and say we should have won the game from that position.
"I can say we will take the point as once they got momentum we had to fight it out. I will take the point all day.
"That throw-in is a really good weapon, whoever is throwing it in, be it Will Vaulks or Rory Delap, because it is so flat."
- 27BolaSubstituted forJohnsonat 71'minutes
- 19Mendez-LaingSubstituted forKebanoat 71'minutes
- 18WatmoreSubstituted forAkpomat 81'minutes
- 9AssombalongaSubstituted forSpenceat 81'minutes
- 38NgBooked at 59mins
- 6VaulksBooked at 30minsSubstituted forRallsat 67'minutes
- 3BennettBooked at 57mins
- 23WilsonSubstituted forBacunaat 67'minutes
- 11MurphySubstituted forOjoat 61'minutes
- 29M Harris
- Jarred Gillett
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 1, Cardiff City 1.
Attempt blocked. Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Anfernee Dijksteel.
Foul by Djed Spence (Middlesbrough).
Marlon Pack (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Neeskens Kebano (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Joe Ralls (Cardiff City).
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Marlon Pack.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Perry Ng.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Leandro Bacuna.
Foul by Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough).
Sean Morrison (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Middlesbrough 1, Cardiff City 1. Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from very close range to the top left corner. Assisted by Chuba Akpom.
Attempt missed. Chuba Akpom (Middlesbrough) with an attempt from very close range is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Djed Spence replaces Britt Assombalonga.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Chuba Akpom replaces Duncan Watmore.
Foul by Marvin Johnson (Middlesbrough).
Perry Ng (Cardiff City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Marvin Johnson (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.
Attempt missed. Britt Assombalonga (Middlesbrough) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Neeskens Kebano with a cross.
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