In spite of a lively, determined performance, Forest are now seven games without a goal and just two points from the bottom of the table.
It was a bright, energetic performance from Forest in the first half. They attacked well and in numbers and in spite of being unable to get on the scoresheet they received warm applause from the City Ground crowd at half time.
Forest started the second half well but it was Cardiff who took the lead just before the hour mark. Forest worked hard to get a quick equalizer but their game petered out as the game moved towards its close.
Forest started well and threatened with a ball forward by Jonathan Greening
which was deflected into the path of Robbie Findley
and as he ran onto the ball David Marshall came out of his area and slid in to take the Forest striker out.
The home fans wanted a red card for the Cardiff keeper, but it was only a yellow card and a free kick on the right for Forest, which was eventually cleared.
Forest's injury problems continued when Findley went off the pitch clutching his shoulder, having been injured in the earlier challenge. After receiving treatment it was clear he would not be able to carry on and was replaced by Matt Derbyshire
after just five minutes.
Cardiff looked menacing as their three strikers forced their way forward. Kenny Miller fed the ball to Joe Mason who headed back across the box to Rudy Gestede who volleyed towards goal with his right foot, but it was well blocked well by Luke Chambers
But it was Forest who looked the better side and were denied the opening goal after some good defending. The ball came in from a free kick a long way out and as Ben Turner slipped Derbyshire looked like he had got away from the Cardiff defender but somehow, from a prone position, he managed to get the ball to safety.
And good build-up play by Forest created another chance when Chris Gunter
did well to get away down the right and beat his man before sending a low ball in from the right which was met by Garath McCleary
, as he ran into the six-yard box, but he side-footed straight at the keeper.
And McCleary again sent the ball straight to the keeper after Guy Moussi
did well to win the ball and break forward before crossing to McCleary on the right corner of the penalty area.
Cardiff missed a chance to take the lead when they won a free kick from 25 yards out on the left. Peter Whittingham's ball found the head of Turner who headed wide from 12 yards.Joel Lynch
picked up a one-match suspension for his fifth yellow card, on the final day before the cut-off date and he will miss the game against Ipswich on Monday.
Forest had a late chance from a corner after a good ball by Greening to the near post found Derbyshire who flashed the ball across the face of goal where Lynch tried to get a shot in from a tight angle, but the ball went into the side-netting.
The Forest keeper had his first real save of the half in the 45th minute when Miller's shot from 25 yards dipped low in front of Lee Camp
who dived to tip the ball round for a corner.
Forest started the second half brightly and Greg Cunningham
did well to win the ball on half way before driving into the Cardiff half and playing a one-two with Tudgay, but he couldn't quite get on the end of the ball and Cardiff made the clearance.
Forest were again in with a chance when McCleary sent a low ball in from the right to the near post where Tudgay tried an overhead kick, but the ball was blocked and then put out for a corner.
Good work by Cunningham prevented Mason from getting a shot in for Cardiff when the ball came into the box from the left but the Forest player made the clearance.
Forest were nearly caught out when the ball was sent forward from midfield and flicked on to Miller who looked offside as he only had Camp to beat from just six yards out in front of goal but, under pressure from the Forest keeper, he scooped the ball wide.
But Miller didn't miss a second time when he took the lead for Cardiff 13 minutes into the half, getting on the end of a superb diagonal cross from Whittingham and beating Chambers to the ball before looping the header into the top corner.
Forest had the chance to get a quick one back from a free kick taken well by McGugan from 25 yards out but it evaded both Derbyshire and Tudgay as he slid in to try and get on the end of the ball.
And McGugan came close when the ball wasn't fully cleared and his effort from 20 yards out beat the keeper, but fizzed just wide.
Forest kept up the pressure and a good ball into the box from Greening had to be punched away by Marshall.
And they were denied again when the ball was fired in to the feet of Tudgay who managed to get the ball to Greening, but his effort was deflected out for another Forest corner.
Cardiff threatened when Gestede got away from Lynch inside the box but Chambers came in to make a good challenge to clear the ball.
A double substitution for Forest, with ten minutes remaining, saw Andy Reid
come on for Greening and there was a debut for the young striker Patrick Bamford
, who replaced substitute Derbyshire.
Bamford was involved early on when he challenged for the ball, skipping past one player before trying to play it in to Tudgay, but the ball went out for a corner.
Forest created little in the closing minutes of the game but again pushed forward in stoppage time after a great ball in from McGugan on the right gave them yet another corner.
Reid's ball came in to McCleary who struck it well and it came back out to McGugan but his shot from 20 yards went wide.Nottingham Forest:
Camp, Gunter, Chambers(C), Lynch, Cunningham, McCleary, Greening(Reid, 80min), Moussi, McGugan, Tudgay, Findley(Derbyshire 6min)(Bamford 80min)
Subs not used: Smith, Majewski,
Bookings: Lynch 43min, Greening 72minCardiff City:
Marshall, Taylor, Hudson(C), Turner, Whittingham, Cowie, Gunnarsson, Blake, Mason(Conway 82min), Miller, Gestede
Subs not used: Heaton, Gerrard, McPhail, Earnshaw
Bookings: Marshall 1min, Hudson 61min
Scorer: Miller 59min
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Attendance: 19,750 Away attn: 1,004