After a solid second half performance, Forest will be disappointed not to have taken a share of the points at Cardiff.
Cardiff had the better of the first half, looking stronger as the game progressed and dominating by the half time whistle.
When Forest did get the ball they gave it away too easily and Steve Cotterill would have been pleased to get his side into the dressing room at half time.
Forest started the second half well but it was the home side who eventually took the lead. A triple substitution from Forest brought the team to life and it almost paid off, with them coming close to an equaliser on more than one occasion.
It was a tentative start to the game, with the first chance being taken by Cardiff in the fifth minute when Aron Gunnarsson's cross picked out Anthony Gerrard, whose shot was deflected wide for their first corner of the game.
A good break by Forest saw Luke Chambers and Robbie Findley combine well to get the ball forward. Chambers fired a cross into the six-yard box, but it was deflected out for a corner before anyone could get on the end of it.
Both sides gave the ball away too frequently and there were few chances for either team in the opening half hour.
A good break by Cardiff saw Gunnarsson get the ball forward into the box and only quick thinking from Lee Camp enabled him to win the race for the ball with Kenny Miller.
And they had another chance when Don Cowie's cross from the right went over everyone and found Craig Conway as he ran in at the back post but, under pressure from Chris Gunter, his shot from six yards out went high over the crossbar.
Forest got forward with a long ball up from Camp which was flicked on by Marcus Tudgay to Findley who was under pressure and fired over from just outside the box.
Forest were caught out when Gunnarsson took a quick throw in to Cowie whose cross picked out Turner but he headed straight at Camp.
Good defending by Joel Lynch prevented Cardiff getting a shot in just before the break when Conway got away from&nbsp;Greg Cunningham and squared the ball to Cowie whose effort was well blocked by Lynch.
It was a good start to the second half for Forest who had a chance early on from Lewis McGugan's free kick which fell for Marcus Tudgay who shot on the turn, but his effort was blocked at close range by Gerrard and went out for a corner.
Findley, playing well after the break, should have done better when he got away down the right and into the penalty area but, with two red shirts to choose from he managed to miss them both.
But it was Cardiff who took the lead 25 minutes into the half when substitute Joe Mason got on the end of Peter Whittingham's free kick and flashed a header in at the far post.
Steve Cotterill's answer was to make a triple substitution with Andy Reid, Paul Anderson and David McGoldrick coming on for McGugan, Gunter and Findley.
And all three substitutes were involved when Anderson fed the ball to McGoldrick who laid it off for Reid to cross but Gerrard got a touch to put it out for a corner.
They had another chance when Reid broke and put in a cross to Anderson who headed across the face of goal where it was palmed away by David Marshall but only as far as Luke Chambers whose header went over the crossbar.
And as Forest continued to put the pressure on McGoldrick made a great run and put in a superb cross to Anderson who got to the ball at the same time as McNaughton and it looped up over the crossbar.
And in stoppage time a header from Tudgay came to Anderson too quickly and he was unable to get his header on target.
Forest kept the pressure on right through to the final whistle but were unable to find the equalizer.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Chambers(C), Morgan, Lynch, Cunningham, Gunter(Anderson 78min), Moussi, McGugan(Reid 78min), Greening, Tudgay, Findley(McGoldrick 78min)
Subs not used: Smith, Majewski,
Bookings: Moussi 21min, McGugan 53min
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton(C), Taylor, Turner, Gerrard, Whittingham, Cowie, Conway(Mason 58min), Gunnarsson, McPhail(Ralls 76min), Miller
Subs not used: Heaton, Blake, Earnshaw
Bookings: Whittingham 74min
Scorer: Mason 70min
Referee: D Phillips