Alex Mighten's first City Ground goal was enough to hand Nottingham Forest a crucial and hard-fought 1-0 win over Blackburn Rovers this afternoon.
The youngster's deflected first-half strike made the difference but just as important was Brice Samba's tremendous penalty save to prevent Rovers' top scorer Adam Armstrong from levelling the scores in the second half as Forest held on for a deserved victory which moves them seven points clear of the bottom three.
Chris Hughton made two changes to the side which was beaten at Swansea on Wednesday as Mighten and Glenn Murray replaced Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban, the latter missing out through injury, while there was a place on the bench for Ryan Yates on his return from injury.
It was Tony Mowbray's men who made a confident start on the ball but Forest were the ones who created the first real goalscoring opportunity. Anthony Knockaert played a one-two with Murray inside the penalty area, danced neatly round a couple of challenges before Ryan Nyambe cleared his effort off the line with goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski beaten.
The Reds hadn't created too many clear-cut chances but they did convert one with 26 minutes of the contest played. Mighten received the ball on the edge of the Rovers penalty area and his deflected strike wrong-footed Kaminski and crashed into the back of the Belgian's net to give Forest an important lead in such a tight game.
Confidence was flowing for Hughton's men at this point and they came close to doubling their lead soon after. Knockaert's cross fell kindly for Murray just outside the Rovers six-yard box on the angle but he dragged his shot across the face of goal, past Kaminski's right-hand post and behind for a goal-kick.
Referee Keith Stroud added on two minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half and that was time enough for both sides to hit the woodwork. First, James Garner headed a delightful Knockaert cross onto the crossbar and behind while at the other end, Rovers' leading goalscorer Armstrong crashed an outstanding strike off the post with Samba beaten.
Neither side made a particularly brilliant start to the second half but Rovers had the first attempt on 55 minutes. Former Forest striker Ben Brereton laid the ball off to Armstrong just inside the penalty area but Samba got his body behind the low strike to prevent it from sneaking into the corner of the net.
Lyle Taylor had been introduced on the hour mark as a replacement for Murray and he missed a guilt-edged chance to double The Reds' lead with 20 minutes to play. Cyrus Christie's drilled strike was turned onto the post by Kaminski but Taylor couldn't get his feet sorted in time for the rebound and could only prod the ball wide of the target.
Just a minute after Taylor's miss and Blackburn had a golden opportunity to level from the penalty spot. Samba came out to meet Ryan Nyambe inside the box but only succeeded in bringing the defender down and referee Stroud had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Samba redeemed himself though but flinging himself to his right to keep out Armstrong's penalty and preserve Forest's vital lead.
That was to prove the crucial moment of the contest as Forest saw out the four minutes of second half stoppage time to claim a hugely important three points ahead of trips to Rotherham United and Derby County on Tuesday and Friday respectively.
Forest: Samba; Christie, Figueiredo, Worrall (c), Ribeiro; Garner, Cafu (Yates 69'); Knockaert (Blackett 87'), Krovinovic, Mighten (Freeman 69'); Murray (Taylor 59')
Subs not used: Smith, Mbe Soh, Colback, Jenkinson, Lolley
Goal: Mighten 26'
Bookings: Murray 41', Garner 67'
Blackburn: Kaminski; Nyambe (Bennett 90'), Harwood-Bellis, Branthwaite, Bell; Travis (Rothwell 86'), Davenport (Buckley 86'); Gallagher (Dack 46'), Elliott, Brereton (Dolan 64'); Armstrong (c)
Subs not used: Pears, Downing, Douglas, Evans
Booking: Harwood-Bellis 2'
Referee: Keith Stroud