MIDDLESBROUGH'S goal drought dragged on at Sheffield Wednesday, but the game was not without controversy in an ill-tempered encounter at Hillsborough.
Andy D'Urso awarded Wednesday a late penalty – converted by substitute Atdha Nehiu - and sent Dean Whitehead off for denying a goalscoring opportunity when the Boro skipper handled on the line, after the match official had earlier failed to award a goal to Boro in the first half.
More than 11 hours of football have now been played since Boro's last goal – but the drought looked to be over when Jacob Butterfield took a shot from 25 yards out that Chris Kirkland tipped on to the post, before it hit the opposite post, and rolled along the line into the Wednesday goalkeeper's hands.
Replays shown at half-time were inconclusive whether the ball had crossed the line or not, but the linesman would have had a better vantage point from which to judge - and he stayed put.
As far as chances for Boro in the first half, that was it. Wednesday had the better of the chances, no more so when Leon Best – a former Newcastle striker – slid wide from Liam Palmer's cross on the half-hour.
And, just before half-time, debutant Tomas Mejias was called into action when Nathaniel Chalobah inadvertently headed goalwards, but the Real Madrid loanee expertly tipped the ball away.
Mejias was back in action after the interval, saving well from Sam Hutchinson, before Boro put a few passes together and went on the attack.
Kirkland kept the scores level with a fine piece of goalkeeping on the hour mark when he firstly denied Danny Graham, who had been slipped in by Butterfield, then Chalobah from distance on the rebound.
Mejias was called into action again on 78 minutes when he saved brilliantly from Giles Coke, but the new boy was arguably to blame for the late penalty concession.
The Spaniard raced out to meet a cross that he had no chance of winning, and Whitehead blocked the resultant shot on the line with his hand. D'Urso had no option but to dismiss Whitehead and award the penalty, duly dispatched by Nuhiu, to seal victory which will be considered extremely harsh on Boro.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (4-4-2): Kirkland; Palmer, Loovens, Onyewu, Mattock (Helan 42); Maguire (Nuhiu 71), Coke, Hutchinson, Maghoma (Johnson 62); Lavery, Best. Subs: Davies, , Helan, Llera, Gardner.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Mejias; Varga, Omeruo, Woodgate (Gibson 46), Friend; Whitehead, Chalobah; Kamara, Butterfield (Main 75), Adomah (Ledesma 58); Graham. Subs: Konstantopoulos, Leadbitter, Tomlin, Ledesma, Gibson, Main, Morris.