New Bristol City manager Nigel Pearson watched his new side end a run of six straight Championship defeats with an impressive win at Middlesbrough.
Famara Diedhiou’s brace – a header and a coolly-placed right-foot shot – and Nahki Wells’ superb solo run and finish had the visitors 3-0 ahead before half-time.
Dael Fry did manage to pull a goal back for Boro with 10 minutes left but they were unable to undo the damage from a dominant first-half display by the Robins.
Victory was City’s first in the league since the end of January and their first away from home since 1 December.
Defeat for Boro dented their hopes of breaking into the play-off places after back-to-back wins had moved them to within three points of the top six.
Former Boro centre-back Pearson, who was appointed as successor to Dean Holden on Monday, watched on from the stands at the Riverside while two of Holden’s former assistants, Paul Simpson and Keith Downing, took charge on the touchline.
The ex-Leicester City and Watford boss, who has agreed a deal until the end of the season at Ashton Gate, would have been delighted with what he saw from his new side.
They made a terrific start even before Diedhiou headed home a cross from Adam Nagy for the opener and his 50th goal for the club.
Wells had a goal-bound effort stopped on the line as Paddy McNair raced back to cover while Diedhiou then forced a superb left-handed save from Marcus Bettinelli with his shot from the edge of the penalty area.
But once they took the lead, there was seemingly no stopping a resurgent City.
Diedhiou soon added to his opening goal when he and Wells combined on the break to set up a low finish under Bettinelli’s body.
Moments later, they had a third as a hopeful clearance by Tomas Kalas from his own byline was flicked on by Diedhiou for Wells to meet on halfway and then outpace a despairing Jonny Howson before he rounded Bettinelli for the finish.
Boro tried to find a way back into it in the second half but Fry’s goal, after Sam Morsy’s shot was parried away, was all they had to show for it.
City keeper Dan Bentley clawed away an in-swinging Marvin Johnson corner onto his crossbar and Boro’s Neeskens Kebano had a shot on target blocked after Duncan Watmore’s through ball, but the visitors kept them at arm’s length.
Pearson will officially take full charge for the first time when Bristol City travel to Swansea on Saturday.
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock told BBC Radio Tees:
“I thought we started off alright, but then we concede a goal when we’ve got three of our best defenders marking one striker.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me how they can lose concentration and the second goal was the same again.
“We’ve got what we’ve got and we can have no complaints. How we can have a 20-minute spell like we had tonight, I haven’t got all the answers.
“I thought on Saturday, our front three were really instrumental in why we won, but tonight, they didn’t give us anything.”
Bristol City caretaker manager Keith Downing told BBC Radio Bristol:
“From the first whistle, we were very positive. Our forward play, which has been missing for a number of weeks, was far better, much more composed.
“Our link play with the front two was excellent and we were just more on the front foot.
“That’s hugely satisfying and proof to the players that they can do it. It’s the confidence factor that’s just been missing in recent times and we got it back today.
“Some great counter-attacking goals and I’m really pleased for Famara (Diedhiou) and Nahki (Wells) as it’s a partnership that’s come together again this evening.
“I thought the boys managed the game really well in the second half after being really destructive in the first.”
- 20FisherSubstituted forMendez-Laingat 45′minutes
- 27BolaBooked at 63minsSubstituted forJohnsonat 77′minutes
- 21KebanoSubstituted forSavilleat 67′minutes
- 11FletcherSubstituted forAkpomat 23′minutes
- 18WatmoreSubstituted forAssombalongaat 67′minutes
- 2HuntBooked at 90mins
- 45PalmerBooked at 61minsSubstituted forPatersonat 81′minutes
- 34TowlerSubstituted forS Sessegnonat 81′minutes
- 9DiédhiouSubstituted forSemenyoat 73′minutes
- 21WellsSubstituted forMassengoat 88′minutes
- 43S Sessegnon
Match ends, Middlesbrough 1, Bristol City 3.
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 1, Bristol City 3.
Attempt missed. George Saville (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Marvin Johnson with a headed pass.
Foul by Sam Morsy (Middlesbrough).
Han-Noah Massengo (Bristol City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Jack Hunt (Bristol City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Marvin Johnson (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jack Hunt (Bristol City).
Attempt missed. Sam Morsy (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Substitution, Bristol City. Han-Noah Massengo replaces Nahki Wells.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Jamie Paterson.
Attempt blocked. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Marvin Johnson.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Steven Sessegnon.
Substitution, Bristol City. Steven Sessegnon replaces Ryley Towler.
Substitution, Bristol City. Jamie Paterson replaces Kasey Palmer.
Goal! Middlesbrough 1, Bristol City 3. Dael Fry (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal following a corner.
Attempt blocked. Sam Morsy (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Ryley Towler.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Marvin Johnson replaces Marc Bola.
Foul by Sam Morsy (Middlesbrough).