Daniel Ayala scored a stoppage-time winner as unbeaten Middlesbrough went top of the Championship and ended West Bromwich Albion’s recent resurgence.
Boro dominated the match from start to finish but had to wait until the 91st minute before Spanish centre-half Ayala eventually found a way through from close range.
Middlesbrough had squandered numerous opportunities prior to that, with Martin Braithwaite most guilty when he blazed high and wide from inside the six-yard box.
Ryan Shotton headed over and Stewart Downing’s fierce strike forced Sam Johnstone into a smart save – but boss Tony Pulis was not to be denied a victory against his former employers.
Boro have now won four in a row after drawing their opening league game, responding superbly to the disappointment of losing in the play-off semi-finals in 2017-18.
They were rarely troubled by Darren Moore’s side, who looked a long way short of reproducing the attacking flair displayed in their 4-3 win at Norwich and last week’s 7-1 hammering of Queens Park Rangers.
The closest they came to scoring was when Aden Flint smashed an awkward attempted clearance against the underside of his own crossbar.
Despite enjoying 62% of the possession, the Baggies were at their most dangerous on the break – with Dwight Gayle wasting a two-on-one situation early in the second half.
West Brom, relegated from the Premier League last season, remain in seventh after two wins from their first five Championship matches.
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis told BBC Tees:
“West Brom have a lot of quality players and I still think any team that finishes above them will get promoted.
“This league is really, really tough and every game you play you have to be at your maximum.
“We’ve turned up again tonight, realised it was going to be tough, worked hard and got the break at the end – which we deserved.”
West Bromwich Albion head coach Darren Moore told BBC WM 95.6:
“It’s a sickener to lose it in the final few minutes of the game. We just lost the flight of the ball in the air – I think if we contest it we come away with a clean sheet.
“You’ve got to give Middlesbrough credit, they changed their shape to combat us. They went with a defensive display and they’ll probably feel they got it right in terms of nullifying us.
“It’s a disappointing one to take because I thought during the 90 minutes we played the game right.”