After 82 minutes of a pretty even and lively contest at the Riverside Stadium, Main took centre stage for the right and the wrong reasons to help Boro get their promotion push back on track with a narrow victory over Leeds United.
After five successive defeats and no points from their previous fixtures since the turn of the year, the former Darlington striker turned match-winner.
He somehow conjured up a brilliant header to loop Ishmael Miller's cross to the back of the area over goalkeeper Paddy Kenny and inside the far post.
It was his second goal inside four days since recovering from a four-month lay-off with a knee injury and was worthy of winning any match, let alone one with Middlesbrough's closest neighbours in the Championship.
But then, after picking up his first yellow card for stopping a free-kick, he was then issued with a second booking and a one-match ban for jumping with his arms to meet a long ball forward. It seemed a harsh decision from referee Keith Stroud, but Middlesbrough stayed strong in the closing stages to hold on to their first win of the new year.
In doing so Middlesbrough avoided suffering a sixth straight defeat for the first time since Bryan Robson called Terry Venables for help in 2000-01 – and kept Tony Mowbray's men four points clear of seventh placed Brighton.