Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten run came to an end with a 3-0 defeat at The Cardiff City Stadium this afternoon.
Darius Henderson was shown a straight red card in the first-half after a coming-together with Heidar Helguson, who had earlier given The Bluebirds the lead.
Half-time substitute Rudy Gestede scored twice after the break to compound The Reds’ misery on a soggy afternoon in the Welsh capital.
Lewis McGugan was rewarded for his recent fine goalscoring form with a place in the starting line up. He replaced Andy Reid. Dexter Blackstock was also handed a start, in place of Simon Cox, who was left out of the squad entirely.
After an even start, the first shot of the match came from Cardiff’s Craig Bellamy. His effort from distance bobbled safely into Karl Darlow’s arms.
Forest went straight down the other end and came within inches of opening the scoring. Chris Cohen advanced down the left and cut it back for Adlene Guedioura. The Algerian improvised brilliantly to fizz a first-time effort at goal from the edge of the ‘D’, but he couldn’t cut across it enough and it rustled the side-netting.
The Bluebirds then twice blasted over - Helguson after McGugan failed to clear with a header and Bellamy after Jordan Mutch’s shot had been blocked.
It was Lansbury’s turn on 19 minutes. He shaped his shot nicely from 20 yards but David Marshall was never concerned as it sailed over his crossbar.
Forest were proving themselves as more than a match for their top-of-the-table hosts, and on 23 minutes Guedioura shot straight at the ‘keeper from just outside the area after some patient build-up.
Greg Halford was in the book a minute later when he brought down Kim Bo-Kyung. It turned out to be a pivotal moment as, from Bellamy’s perfectly-taken free-kick, Helguson headed home the opener at the back post.
The Reds should have been level on 35 minutes. Gonzalo Jara Reyes slipped Henri Lansbury into the right side of the area and the midfielder’s shot was parried by Marshall. It came back into Lansbury’s path and he headed it across goal for Henderson. The striker looked to have a simple tap in but miskicked and, before he could set himself to try again, the ball was smothered by Marshall.
As play resumed, Kim drew another Forest booking - this time he was fouled by Jara Reyes.
Forest continued to cause their opponents problems and Marshall was again called into action six minutes before the break as he tipped McGugan’s free-kick over the bar.
From the resultant corner, a scramble in the area resulted in Greg Halford requiring treatment as his teammates remonstrated with the officials.
And the game’s feisty edge continued on 42 minutes when Henderson was shown a straight red card after clashing with Helguson as Forest went forward in search of an equaliser.
Marcus Tudgay replaced Radoslaw Majewski at half-time to make his first competitive appearance since December. Gestede replaced Helguson for The Bluebirds.
Four minutes in to the half, Halford was stretchered off after sustaining a kick to the head as he stooped to clear in The Reds’ area. Danny Collins replaced him.
Six minutes later, Cohen robbed McNaughton in his own half and sent Tudgay towards goal. The striker’s shot took a deflection and found its way safely to Marshall.
There were no signs of Forest feeling sorry for themselves on an afternoon where very little was going their way - they pressed again and McGugan’s 56th-minute shot was nodded off target by a defender.
But on 58 minutes Guedioura and Blackstock both picked up bookings - the latter’s foul allowing Bellamy to rattle the post with a free-kick.
The ball stayed in play and Andrew Taylor’s cross was perfect for Gestede. Darlow got a hand to his header but there was too much power and it found the back of the net.
Cardiff continued to press and Darlow was forced to make two saves in quick succession. The first, from Kim, was an acrobatic dive to palm the ball away from the top corner and the second a simple stop from Bellamy at his near post.
Collins was then called on to divert Tommy Smith’s effort wide, but it was three from the resultant corner as Gestede towered at the back post to put the game well and truly beyond Forest.
McGugan shot over on 69 minutes before Kim, a constant Cardiff threat, curled just wide minutes later.
With 13 minutes to go, Aaron Gunnarsson wormed his way to the byline and picked out Bellamy at the back post. The Welshman couldn’t adjust his feet in time and the ball bobbled off him and into the side-netting.
The ball found its way there again in injury time when Craig Noone, on for Smith, missed the target after latching on to Bellamy’s dink.
The substitute then rattled the post with an overhit cross - the last action of a disappointing afternoon for Forest.
Forest: Darlow, Jara Reyes, Halford (Collins 50'), Ward, Cohen (c), Lansbury, Guedioura (Moussi 75'), Majewski (Tudgay 46'), McGugan, Henderson, Blackstock
Subs not used: Evtimov, Harding, Reid, Sharp
Bookings: Halford 25', Jara 36', Guedioura 58', Blackstock 59', Moussi 85'
Sent off: Henderson 42'
Cardiff: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Turner, Helguson (Gestede 46'), Kim, Smith (Noone 74'), Gunnarsson, Mutch (Whittingham 88'), Barnett, Bellamy (c)
Subs not used: Lewis, Conway, Mason, Nugent
Scorers: Helguson 26', Gestede 60', 66'
Booking: Mutch 45'
Referee: Andre Marriner