Middlesbrough pulled six points clear of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone as they came from a goal down to beat fellow strugglers Stoke 2-1 on Friday night.
After a dismal first 45 minutes devoid of chances at the Riverside Stadium, the game sparked into life after the break when Sam Clucas' sixth goal of the season gave the Potters a deserved lead (53).
But the lead lasted all of four minutes, with Ashley Fletcher beating the offside trap to head home (57), before substitute Lewis Wing's thumping effort secured a valuable win (72).
Jonathan Woodgate's men move up to 18th as a result of their second win in four games, while Stoke remain two points adrift of safety, having won just twice on the road all season.
How Boro won the battle of the underperformers
Woodgate was reluctant to refer to this encounter as a 'six-pointer' in his pre-match interview, but the psychological reward for either side in winning against fellow strugglers was evident nonetheless.
That said, there was a very slow start on Teesside. Set pieces were over-hit by players from both sides, while Tom Ince summed up his recent woes in front of goal when he scuffed wide after a clever lay-off from Joe Allen.
Just before the half-hour mark, Fletcher had the best chance of the half when he turned Danny Batth, steadied himself and forced a smart fingertip save from Jack Butland, but otherwise it was a frustrating half for the home fans, who audibly berated their side's lack of forward movement.
Having statistically edged the first period, Stoke made that count eight minutes after the break. Dael Fry's wild attempt at a clearance allowed Lee Gregory to cross for James McClean and though Aynsley Pears superbly saved his connection, Clucas race on to rifle home.
With Marcus Browne and Paddy McNair suspended, Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate made two changes, with McNair and Marvin Johnson dropping out for Stephen Walker and Djed Spence.
Stoke boss Michael O'Neill also made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Reading last time out as Tommy Smith and Lee Gregory came in for Tom Edwards and Sam Vokes.
Fletcher's quickfire equaliser ensured Boro heads didn't drop, but it was a double change moments later - when Woodgate introduced Wing and Rudy Gestede - that turned the game in the hosts' favour.
Soon after, Clucas was booked, perhaps unfairly, for simulation after a coming together between himself and Jonny Howson, but Wing settled the tie with 18 minutes to play when he collected Marcus Tavernier's square ball and unleashed a dipping effort past Butland from 25 yards.
Man of the match - Dani Ayala
Though Stoke's attack didn't threaten the Boro backline on too many occasions, when they did the Spaniard was there to mop up anything and everything. He continues to be an important cog in the Middlesbrough side, as he has been for many a season now.
Not only that, he proved something of a menace in attacking set pieces, notably forcing a brilliant reaction save from Butland in the second half.
What the managers said…
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate: "I thought we were miles better in the second half. We were a different team and we deserved the win. I've got five players under the age of 21, I've got academy graduates playing and doing a really good job and showing togetherness in the team.
"Second half I thought we were fantastic and the result is all that matters. It was a good victory in the end."
Stoke boss Michael O'Neill: "Difficult one for us to take. I thought, in the first half, we were in total control of the game. We didn't create enough from the opportunities we had but went ahead in the game, deservedly so.
"But again, we don't hold onto leads well enough. [The first goal was] a goal that was preventable and then we lose a second goal that we shouldn't have lost. In the second half, they changed their shape and matched us up and we didn't deal with that as well as we should've done."
Both sides are next in action on Boxing Day. Middlesbrough host Huddersfield, while Stoke welcome Sheffield Wednesday to the bet365 Stadium. Both fixtures get underway at 3pm.