Nottingham Forest showed determination in a spirited performance, but a single goal from Burnely was enough to give them the three points.
There were few chances in the first half but Billy Davies would have been satisfied with his team's performance in the first 45 minutes, which was the better of the two sides, only to see them fall behind just before the break.
Forest fought back well in the second half but their final ball was poor and chances on target were few and far between for both sides.
It was a confident start by Forest, who had a decent amount of possession in the opening minutes, but without any chances on goal .
Burnley were denied a chance of a goal 11 minutes into the game when a slight touch from a diving Wes Morgan took the ball away from Ross Wallace on the far post.
New loan signing Ryan Bertrand settled in nicely and he did well to stop Dean Marney in his tracks when he made a break from midfield.
Nathan Tyson made a good run down the left but was prevented from getting an accurate cross in to goal by Tyrone Mears, who did a good job in blocking his way.
It was more than 20 minutes before Burnley had their first shot on target, but the left-footer from Wallace gave Lee Camp no problems.
A good one-two by Robert Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock gave Forest the best chance of the game so far, with Earnshaw crashing the ball against Brian Jensen's left-hand post from 20 yards out.
Burnley had a chance from a corner late in the half, with a good effort by Andre Bikey, which was cleared off the line at the far post by Chris Cohen and out for another corner.
The home side took the lead on 45 minutes with the best play of the half. Good combination play culminated in Wade Elliott's diagonal cross which flew in perfectly to Chris Iwelumo who dived in to head the ball past Camp from 6 yards out.
Luke Chambers came out in place of Kelvin Wilson for the start of the second half.
Burnley were looking for a second goal five minutes into the half but, under pressure from Blackstock, Clarke Carlisle was unable to get his header on target and the ball scraped just wide of the post.
Forest missed a great opportunity to get back on level terms following some great work by Chris Cohen and Blackstock to get the ball over to Tyson, who had plenty of time to get a shot in at a slight angle from 12 yards, but he blazed the ball over the crossbar.
And they continued to look positive getting forward, creating another chance but Earnshaw turned and shot, sending the ball over the crossbar, before seeing Cohen waiting for a chance in acres of space.
Burnley had a half-chance when a cross from Wallace found the head of Dean Marney, but Camp had it covered as the ball looped over the crossbar.
After a good break, again Forest failed to find the target when Gunter's cross found Blackstock but he headed over the bar.
It was Blackstock's last involvement in the game, having struggled with a cut to his face since the first half, he was replaced by Paul Anderson with 20 minutes remaining.
Forest improved their attacking play as the half progressed, with the home supporters clearly getting more worried that they might concede a late equalizer.
Burnley came close to a second goal ten minutes from time when Iwelumo tried to loop the ball over Camp and the Forest keeper had to stretch to get a fingertip to the ball to keep it out.
Radoslaw Majewski was met with a huge cheer from the travelling supporters when he came on for Guy Moussi with eight minutes remaining.
With just minutes remaining substitute Steven Thompson came close to getting the ball past the Forest keeper and Camp did well to dive to his right to make the save.
With the rain still coming down, Forest had four minutes of stoppage time to try and get a late equalizer.
But it was Burnley who came close when a cross from Rodriguez went over Camp, but Marney's header looped over the crossbar.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Gunter, Morgan, Wilson(Chambers 45minHT), Bertrand, Cohen, Moussi(Majewski 82min), McKenna, Tyson, Earnshaw, Blackstock(Anderson 69min)
Bookings: Morgan 87min
Subs not used: Darlow, McGugan, McCleary, Adebola
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Bikey, Duff(Carlisle 30min), Fox, Paterson(Rodriguez 76min), Marney, Alexander, Elliott, Wallace, Iwelumo(Thompson 85min).
Subs not used: Edgar, Cort, Eagles, Grant
Bookings: Mears 71min, Iwelumo 81min
Scorer: Iwelumo 45min
Referee: Colin Webster