The Reds fell behind twice in the first half to goals from David Nugent and Daniel Ayala.
Matt Mills issued an almost-immediate response to Nugent's neat flick with a superb volley from a corner.
And Henri Lansbury was given a golden opportunity to equalise when Boro's Ben Gibson was penalised for handball in the area.
Lansbury's penalty was saved, however, and despite intense Forest pressure Boro held on to claim victory.
Dougie Freedman made four changes to the side that beat Birmingham City on Tuesday night.
The Reds started the match with a fully changed attacking trio as Ryan Mendes, Nelson Oliveira and Chris O’Grady came into the starting line up in place of the bench-bound Chris Burke, Jamie Ward and Dexter Blackstock.
David Vaughan was also handed a start in place of Kyle Ebecilio, who was absent from the matchday squad.
Crystal Palace loanee Jonny Williams was given a spot on the bench, as were Dimitar Evtimov, Jack Hobbs and Jorge Grant.
Forest found themselves behind with only three minutes on the clock as they succumbed to some early Boro pressure.
Moments after Dorus de Vries had to race to the edge of his area to smother at the feet of a Boro attacker and Kelvin Wilson had to halt a goal-bound lob, George Friend’s dangerous low cross from the left provided Nugent with the chance to flick the ball past de Vries from close range.
It took Forest only three minutes to level, Oliveira’s shot deflecting over for a corner and Lansbury dinking the ball into the middle. Mills met the ball perfectly, volleying it high into the net to complete a quick recovery for his side.
The early stages were being played out at a furious tempo and Nugent found himself in the book for catching Henri Lansbury late on nine minutes.
Moments later, brilliant work down the left from O’Grady sent Mendes racing into the box with the ball. The angle was tight and his touch was heavy, allowing a Boro defender to nip in and knock it behind for a corner.
Boro dealt with the subsequent set piece and broke away on the counter. Covering defender Daniel Pinillos appeared to be caught in two minds as to whether he should close down or stand off Adam Clayton. The Boro midfielder supplied Stewart Downing to his left and the former West Ham man’s pace took him clean through on de Vries, who made an excellent save with his foot.
Mills’ involvement was over on 18 minutes when he was forced off the field with an injury. Jack Hobbs replaced him.
Hobbs’ centre back partner Kelvin Wilson found himself in the book on 22 minutes after he fouled Nugent on the left touchline.
And Boro cranked up the pressure once again by forcing de Vries into an excellent double save. The first came from a powerful Nugent strike, which the Dutchman could only parry to Adomah ten yards out. The winger sidefooted the ball goalwards first time but de Vries was up and ready to make another good save.
There was nothing the keeper could do nine minutes later, however, as the Teessiders retook the lead in scrappy fashion.
The Reds didn’t deal properly with a short corner and, following a scramble in the middle, former Forest loanee Ayala beat de Vries to the ball to bundle it into the net.
Freedman’s men sought another speedy response and nearly had another equaliser within a minute of the restart. It came from an unlikely source in the shape of Eric Lichaj, who came forward from right back, exchanged passes with Mendes before firing a left-footed effort towards the top corner from the edge of the area. Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos dived to his right to make an excellent save.
The resultant corner saw Vaughan pick out an unmarked Hobbs, but the substitute still had a lot to do. He could only nod the ball over the bar.
Forest were unable to apply any more significant pressure to their visitors before the half-time break, which saw Ward replace Osborn down the right.
And The Reds had a golden opportunity to equalise within two minutes of the restart when Oliveira nicked the ball through for Mendes to race into the area. With no defenders around him, Mendes had plenty of time to weigh up his options as he bore down on Konstantopoulos.
Oliveira was available to his right but the shot always looked the more likely option. The Cape Verde international tried to slide the ball precisely beyond the keeper but he stood firm to make the block.
Five minutes later, Lichaj was in shooting range once again after showing excellent anticipation to beat Adomah to the ball in Middlesbrough's half. The American offloaded the ball to O'Grady and continued his run into the box. Forest worked it back to him and, from a tight angle, Lichaj struck it firmly towards goal. Konstantopoulos was well positioned at his near post to push the ball behind.
As Forest pushed forward there was always going to be the threat of Middlesbrough counter attacks, and that's exactly what happened just before the hour. Boro broke down the left and worked the ball to Downing, who shifted it on to his left foot on the edge of the area before curling it a yard over the bar.
It was an open affair, which suited Forest as they chased an equaliser. Ward showed good footwork down the right to take the ball into the box and, although the angle appeared to be against him, he opted for the shot. The ball whistled just wide of the far post.
A minute later, Boro defender Ben Gibson was booked for hauling down Mendes 25 yards out. Ward took responsibility for the free-kick, striking the ball well but failing to keep it down.
Forest were ramping up the pressure and went close again when Oliveira bent the ball just wide from 20 yards. Clayton was retrospectively booked for trying to haul the Portuguese forward down in the build up.
Next it was Mendes' turn to have a go. In space on the edge of the area, the ball bounced out to him and he lashed it towards goal. Konstantopoulos got down to his right to push it behind.
Freedman's final save saw Williams replace Oliveira with 15 minutes to go. And, two minutes later, The Reds had a wonderful chance to equaliser when they were awarded a penalty.
O'Grady chested the ball down after Lansbury's crossfield pass and it struck Gibson's hand in the area. The assistant signalled for a foul and Lansbury had the chance to score from the spot. He struck the ball low and hard towards goal but Konstantopoulos was equal to it, reacting quickly enough to push Ward's header wide on the rebound.
De Vries made an acrobatic one-handed save to deny Christian Stuani as Boro reminded Forest of their threat on the break before five minutes of added time were signalled.
But for a speculative Ward effort, which saw the ball sail harmlessly over the bar, however, The Reds failed to further trouble Konstantopoulos and were left to rue their missed opportunities.
Forest: De Vries, Lichaj, Mills (Hobbs 18'), Wilson, Pinillos, Osborn (Ward 46'), Lansbury (c), Vaughan, Mendes, Oliveira (Williams 75'), O'Grady
Subs not used: Evtimov, Blackstock, C Burke, Grant
Goal: Mills 7'
Bookings: Wilson 22', Vaughan 79'
Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Adomah (Fabbrini 58'), Leadbitter, Clayton, Downing, Nugent (Kike 68'), Stuani (Forshaw 86')
Subs not used: Mejias, De Pena, Kalas, Amorebieta
Goals: Nugent 3', Ayala 32'
Bookings: Nugent 9', Gibson 66', Clayton 69', Leadbitter 81', Fabbrini 84', Ayala 85'
Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 20,993 (1,762 away)