Jordan Rhodes fired Middlesbrough a step closer to the Premier League as the Scotland striker’s dramatic double sealed a 2-1 win over already-relegated Bolton on Saturday.
Aitor Karanka’s side fell behind to Josh Vela’s 61st-minute goal, but former Blackburn star Rhodes leveled in the 73rd minute and struck again in stoppage-time at the Macron Stadium.
Middlesbrough’s sixth successive victory kept the leaders two points clear of second-placed Burnley and three ahead of third-placed Brighton with four matches remaining in the race for promotion from the Championship.
After losing last year’s play-off final, Karanka believes this group are well placed to make amends.
“One month ago I said I was much, much calmer than I was last season because I had a much better squad than I had last season; we are more mature, they are stronger and the fixtures are better than we had last season,” he said.
With Brighton having won 5-0 against Fulham on Friday, Burnley responded with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Birmingham.
George Boyd’s 31st-minute drive put Sean Dyche’s team ahead, but Jacques Maghoma headed an equalizer for the hosts 10 minutes into the second half.
Burnley kept their composure and Boyd set up Andre Gray for a 77th-minute winner which lifted the Clarets back two points above Brighton.
“Gray is a constant threat. I was a centre half and there is nothing worse than marking a player and keeping him quiet and he then scores,” Dyche said.
“There is a great belief among the players and there is certainly energy and desire. We are in a good place for a reason. I was very pleased with the way we played.”
16-year-old forward Andre Dozzell, son of former Ipswich striker Jason Dozzell, marked his Ipswich debut with the equalizer as they held play-off hopefuls Sheffield Wednesday to a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough after Fernando Forestieri had given the Owls the lead.
Seventh-placed Cardiff couldn’t take advantage of Wednesday’s slip as they were held to a 0-0 draw by QPR that leaves the south Wales club five points adrift of the play-off places.
Johnny Russell’s header earned fifth-placed Derby a 1-0 victory at second-bottom Charlton, who are 11 points from safety and will be relegated if they lose at Bolton on Tuesday.
Third-bottom Milton Keynes Dons, nine points from safety, also look to be heading for the drop after a 1-1 draw at Preston.
Jermaine Beckford’s first-half opener was cancelled out by Nicky Maynard before the Dons had goalkeeper Cody Cropper sent off and Alex Revell was forced to go in goal, with the striker saving the resulting penalty from Joe Garner.
Elsewhere, Chris Wood scored twice as Leeds edged Reading 3-2 on Royals boss Brian McDermott’s return to Elland Road.
Huddersfield won 2-0 against Blackburn for their first success at Ewood Park since 1986.
Rotherham extended their unbeaten run to nine matches with a goalless draw at home to Nottingham Forest and Bristol City drew 1-1 with Brentford.