Middlesbrough dropped two vital points at home to Hull City in what was a compelling clash at the Riverside Stadium. It was a moment of idiocy from Marvin Johnson that paved the way for the Jarrod Bowen-inspired comeback, and it may well cost Jonathan Woodgate his job.
Story of the match
Neither side began the game at an electrifying intensity but in the seventh minute, Boro took the lead. A skewed goal-kick from George Long eventually made it's way to Paddy McNair, who drove down the right-hand side of the penalty area and managed to hook the ball back across towards the far-left post.
Rather fortuitously, the cross evaded two Hull defenders and found Marcus Tavernier, who was left with the easy task of poking into an empty net.
For a period of about half an hour, the malaise at the Riverside seemed to lift. It was only Middlesbrough’s sixth home goal all season, in a campaign that has yielded just two wins.
The players - seemingly freed from the crippling burden of underperformance - began to play with an extra spring in their step, controlling possession and looking a fluid, unpredictable attacking unit. Britt Assombalonga's link-up play was instrumental to this period of dominance, and he had a massive part to play in the goal, too.
In the 26th minute, Johnson picked up the ball on the left-flank and sprayed a pass into the feet of Assombalonga. The striker let it run through his legs, however, and twisted round Reece Burke to pick up the through ball from Ashley Fletcher.
With Fletcher making a darting run through the middle, Assombalonga executed a wonderfully-weighted first-time return that just rolled over the foot of Jordy de Wijs and fell straight into the path of his strike partner, who dribbled beyond Long to pass into the open net. A sumptuous team goal.
Seven minutes later, however, Boro's positive work would be undone with a red card. Bowen attempted to lay the ball back to Eric Lichaj inside the visitor's half but his pass was short, and lured Johnson into making an attempt for the ball. Lichaj got there first, but the Boro left-back followed through with his left leg in a horrendously high, studs-up sliding tackle. An undebatable red card that was entirely unnecessary.
Woodgate was forced to retreat Tavernier into the vacant left-back position, and at half-time he would bring on midfielder Adam Clayton for Fletcher in an obvious but sensible attempt to try and see out the two-goal lead in two, low banks of four.
Now in complete control of the game, Hull began to speed up their switches of play and take advantage of the extra man by stretching the game and searching for space. They were also keen to pummel the Middlesbrough area with crosses in order to seek out their target man, Tom Eaves.
To their credit, the Boro defence stood strong but simply could not cope when De Wijs began committing himself forward from defence and was lurking at the far-post. Boro were outnumbered, and they could do nothing about it.
The first goal for Hull, however, was simply a moment of magic from star-man Bowen. Picking the ball up just outside the semi-circle, Bowen carried the ball adeptly, fending off two red shirts. He somehow managed to juggle the ball in the midst of the chaos, and teed himself up for a half-volley on the edge of the box which he arrowed home with laser-like precision.
Four minutes later, Bowen would find an equaliser. A switch of play from Lichaj found De Wijs at the far-left post, who headed back across goal towards Bowen. The winger had his initial header blocked, but picked up the rebounds to lash home his second and send the visiting fans into raptures.
Boro can take pride from a much-improved performance, but pressure has not eased on Woodgate
Middlesbrough move out of the bottom three with this point, but such a statistic will do little to console Woodgate who has had three points snatched from under his nose in excruciating circumstances. Boro were in cruise control in a first half that was one of their best showings of the season, but in the second their handicap was all too conspicuous.
Woodgate insists that he has the full support of the Middlesbrough board, but Nathan Jones said the same. There comes a point when the continuation of poor results becomes intolerable and something has to give. Yes, today represented a potential step forward but, ultimately, Woodgate needs his team to start winning matches again and getting some more points the board. If they don't, then his days are numbered, no matter what the performances are like.
Assombalonga reminds us why Middlesbrough paid £15 million for him
Assombalonga has never really hit top form since his big money transfer to the Riverside, but today provided vindication of the quality that he possesses. The Congolese striker held the ball up adeptly, using his physicality to back into defenders and win free-kicks.
He is far from a one-man wrecking ball, though. His link-up play was superb and you only have to watch back the second goal to notice his quality of passing and movement. These performances have not been consistent enough, though, and to really reassert himself as one of the leading marksmen in the league, he is going to have to start serving up these performances more regularly.
POTM - Jarrod Bowen
Assombalonga put in an excellent shift, though there was only one winner of this award today. His two goals rescued the the away side a point today, and the first one, in particular, was one for the archives. Hull's golden boy.