Controversy was abundant at the Riverside Stadium as Middlesbrough drew 1-1 with play-off chasing Blackburn Rovers in the dying seconds.
Patrick Bamford fired Boro in front in the 83rd minute before Rudy Gestede prodded in from a corner after a blatant foul on Smoggie keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Aitor Karanka was outraged by the decision not to pull up the foul and was sent off for his protests by under fire referee Mark Clattenburg.
It was Clatternburg’s first game back from suspension but the fans won’t be wanting the controversial referee back anytime soon.
Middlesbrough made five changes from last weeks draw at Wigan as in came Kenneth Omeruo, Ryan Fredericks, Dean Whitehead, Patrick Bamford and Jelle Vossen.
The five players sacrificed were Ben Gibson, Emilio Nsue, Adam Clayton, Adam Reach and Kike.
Boro were without the suspended Clayton after his five yellow cards while Blackburn’s Jason Steele, on loan from Boro, was ineligible to play.
Both teams were in sparkling form before the game and had it all to play for as Middlesbrough had lost one in 13 games while Blackburn were undefeated in eight, winning four.
There was plenty going on before the game as the club welcomed back club legend Juninho.
He was introduced to a standing ovation from an 18,000 strong crowd as the Little Fella embraced his beloved fans.
A minutes applause was observed before the game in memory of former Boro manager John Neal who passed away at the age of 82 earlier in the week.
The game started brightly as captain fantastic Grant Leadbitter struck a vicious 25-yard shot that stung the hands of Simon Eastwood.
Moments later Jordan Rhodes tried a speculative effort but Dimi was on hands to save comfortably to reassure the Boro faithful.
Vossen was inches away from opening his account for the season as Bamford’s shot wasn’t dealt with and his attempt to stab over the line was prevented by Grant Hanley.
Daniel Ayala and Gestede had a clash of heads which saw the Spanish defender sporting a fashionable red head bandage, showing his true colours!
Ayala then had a header that flashed just wide of the post from a corner as Boro continued to get frustrated by not being in front.
Bamford tried two more efforts before half time as Simon Eastwood was Blackburn’s outstanding player and the difference between the two teams.
The second half started rather quietly for Boro as Ben Marshall curling effort was parried away by Dimi.
Boro’s next chance brought a contender for save of the season as George Friend’s cross found Vossen’s head from point blank range but Eastwood managed to parry over the bar.
A goal for Boro was only a matter of time as they threw the kitchen sink at Rovers.
Blackburn had a huge chance to go in front as Markus Olsson found Gestede in the box and he headed straight at Dimi.
Persistence paid off for Boro though as Ayala headed down, Friend touched it into the path of Bamford and he rifled in from 12 yards to make it 1-0 with little time left.
Immediately Blackburn struck the post from the head of Shane Duffy as it crawled across the goal line and out of play.
Five minutes added time were indicated on the fourth officials board and when Blackburn won a corner, the pulsating action unfolded.
Two seperate and blatant fouls on Ben Gibson and Dimi saw Duffy nod the ball down for Gestede and he prodded in.
The incident left the Greek goalkeeper poleaxed on the floor for several minutes after the goal to leave the Boro players, staff and fans bewildered at how nothing was given.
Karanka, furious with the decision, confronted the fourth official but was then sent off by Clattenburg to add further controversy to the game.
As the final whistle blew, players and coaches surrounded the referee as he had a lot to explain for a woeful display.
After the game, Middlesbrough Head Coach Aitor Karanka demonstrated his shock at the decision by saying: “It was unbelievable.
He added: “I don’t want to say we were robbed but everyone in the stadium saw the foul except the referee.
“I apologise for my behaviour and for my reaction to the decision. But the Blackburn staff were laughing with the fourth official.
“Our players still worked really hard today and they deserve to come away from the game with more than a point.”
The result see Middlesbrough miss the chance to go joint top as they drop to fifth on 33 points while Blackburn remain in sixth on 31 points.
Team Line Ups
Middlesbrough: Dimi (GK); Fredericks (Nsue 45′), Omeruo, Ayala (Gibson 84′), Friend; Leadbitter (C), Whitehead; Adomah, Bamford, Tomlin; Vossen (Kike 74′)
Unused Subs: Mejias, Veljkovic, Reach Wildschut
Blackburn Rovers: Eastwood (GK), Baptiste, Hanley (Henley 41′), Duffy, Olsson; Tunnicliffe, Evans (Brown 86′), Williamson, Marshall; Rhodes (Conway 68′) Gestede
Unused Subs: Dunn, Varney, Taylor, Kean
Possession: Middlesbrough 66% – 34% Blackburn Rovers
Shots (on target): Middlesbrough 25 (11) – 13 (6) Blackburn Rovers
Corners: Middlesbrough 15 – 6 Blackburn Rovers
Fouls: Middlesbrough 9 – 9 Blackburn Rovers
Yellow Cards: Middlesbrough 1 (Tomlin 56′) – 1 (Evans 55′) Blackburn Rovers
www.tside.co.uk Man of the Match: Patrick Bamford
Blackburn Rovers Man of the Match: Simon Eastwood
Dimi Konstantopoulos – 6 – Easy day for him apart from getting poleaxed right before the goal
Ryan Fredericks – 6 – Had another strong first half before coming off injured
Daniel Ayala – 7 – Boro’s stalwart this season produces again as he was solid as a rock
Kenneth Omeruo – 6 – Struggled to find his feet but adapted quickly to the game
George Friend – 7 – Another reliable and energetic performance from ‘Gorgeous George’
Grant Leadbitter – 7 – Strong performance and unlucky not to score
Dean Whitehead – 6 – Comfortable with the ball but sometimes caught a bit slow defensively
Lee Tomlin – 7/8 – Fantastic ability to keep the ball and produce a pass
Albert Adomah – 6 – Didn’t really get into the game and was found lost out on the left
Patrick Bamford – 8/9 – Brilliant display of energy, hunger and class and thoroughly deserved a goal
Jelle Vossen – 7 – Should of scored a header but he worked hard and was a threat all game
Subs: Kike (5), Nsue (7), Gibson (N/A)