Patrick Bamford marked his first start since August with a goal to relieve the pressure on Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk at the Riverside.
Bamford left the the pitch to a standing ovation on 81 minutes after his second-half goal helped secure a 2-0 win over Ipswich.
It came after Martin Braithwaite’s opener on the stroke of half-time and Boro rarely looked threatened after establishing a two-goal lead.
The result couldn’t have come at a better time for Monk, who had watched his side slip six points adrift of the play-offs following a defeat to Bristol City last weekend.
Monk makes changes
The Boro boss made three changes to his starting XI, as Daniel Ayala returned from suspension while captain Grant Leadbitter came back into midfield to partner Jonny Howson.
Patrick Bamford was also recalled, as Adama Traore, Adam Forshaw and Dael Fry all dropped out.
Looking for a third successive victory, Town manager Mick McCarthy welcome back skipper Luke Chambers in defense.
Unsurprisingly, that was the visitors’ only change following their 4-2 victory over Nottingham Forest, as top scorer Martyn Waghorn spearheaded an attack that had scored 35 goals before kick-off.
Manchester City loanee Bersant Celina had also been in great form for the Tractor Boys, and the 21-year-old winger almost created the opener on seven minutes when his cross was turned behind by Ayala.
As the half wore on, Boro slowly began wrestle control of the contest, without really clicking in the final third.
Downing's quality shows
Boro's first real chance came from a free-kick on 16 minutes when Downing’s delivery was stabbed toward goal by Ben Gibson, forcing goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski into a save.
Downing, who was deployed on the right, was the creator of Boro’s next move when the winger picked out Fabio’s overlapping run with a sumptuous cross-field pass
The full-back volleyed over the bar, but it was an encouraging sign for the hosts who threatened again moments later when Assombalonga fired straight at Bialkowski.
Even so, the opening 45 minutes hadn’t been filled with goalmouth action and the game entered a brief lull before half-time.
Then, with the interval looming, Downing’s cross from the right dropped to Braithwaite inside the visitors’ penalty area and after quickly adjusting his feet, the Danish international lashed the ball through the legs of Bialkowski.
Bamford back with a bang
With the wind in their sails, Monk’s men doubled their advantage six minutes after the restart, when Bamford cut in from the left before curling a low effort into the far corner.
Boro were rarely threatened after that and could have added a third when Assombalonga wriggled into a shooting position before firing an effort into defender Adam Webster.
After withdrawing Celina and Grant Ward, Town’s best chance of scoring appeared to be from set plays, but Boro keeper Darren Randolph was alert to punch away a couple of corners.
Both Bamford and Downing received warm receptions from the home crowd when they were substituted in the closing stages. 2-0 it finished.