BARNSLEY 1 (McManus o.g 3)
MIDDLESBROUGH 3 (McDonald 11, Robson 13, Emnes 44)
The Reds suffered their third defeat in a week after Boro bounced back from a goal down to beat Barnsley at Oakwell by three goals to one.
After four-and-a-half hours without a goal, an own goal by McManus had given the Reds a third-minute lead, but it was soon overturned by a quick-fire double from McDonald and Robson.
Marvin Emnes extended the away side's lead just before the break, and the Reds didn't have a response despite their endeavour and effort.
Three changes to the Reds saw Foster and Steele back in the side for Preece and McNulty, with Davies also missing out for O'Brien.
With three minutes gone, and after three matches without goal, the strike the Reds needed finally came - albeit with a tremendous slice of good fortune. A low left-wing delivery was turned into his own net by McManus. It seemed Haynes was on hand to finish but McManus had already done the job, scuffing in past the despairing arm of Ikeme.
The Reds were looking much more settled with the crowd behind them, and were pressing Boro into making mistakes.
Boro threatened with a long ball down the centre which was well controlled by McDonald - the little striker was in on Steele but was denied by the chest of the former Manchester United man. The forward didn't wait long to make amends, heading home a corner on 11 minutes but it seemed to take a deflection off Perkins.
Right at the other end and Haynes flashed an effort across the face of goal that was begging to be turned home.
Oakwell didn't have to wait for another goal, Robson's effort on 13 minutes couldn't be kept out - the midfielder was found by McDonald who had beaten the flag down the left - his delivery finding Robson inside the six-yard box.
Ikeme was stranded on 16 minutes when Butterfield curled a delightful left-footed effort towards the top corner but it flew just wide. The Reds were by no means shell-shocked by the quick-fire Boro double, and were looking to fire a response - Haynes in particular working hard alone up top.
But midway through the first half, Boro almost had a third. Robson firing just wide with a wicked 20 yard free-kick on 24 minutes.
A Hoyte delivery found Robson who, by the 27th minute, had three efforts on goal. This time a header flying over from 10 yards after the Boro right-back's right-wing centre.
Much to Nathan Doyle's and the Oakwell crowd's bemusement - the midfielder was shown a yellow card for tackle on Julio Arca in the centre circle.
It was 3-1 on 44 minutes - the man in-form Marvin Emnes latching onto McDonald's through-ball before tucking past the advancing Steele.
A 20 yard Butterfield chip went over in the first of two stoppage-time minutes - his effort proving to be the last for both sides in the first period.
Four minutes after the interval saw Steele rescue the Reds once again with another one-on-one denial. This time a Bates effort was rejected by the Reds' number one following the central-defender's bursting run into the area.
Steele wasn't finished. Just as the clock ticked over 52 - the Peterborough-born 'keeper denied McDonald with another top stop. Flying towards his top-right corner, Steele was at full stretch to deny the striker his second.
On the hour mark Craig Davies was introduced for Nathan Doyle as the Reds looked for a way back into the match.
Reuben Noble-Lazarus was thrown on for Jim O'Brien with 19 to go. Jacob Butterfield was looking the most creative for the Reds - a neat turn was followed by a 20 yard effort that flew wide.
The final 15 minutes saw the Reds fail to cause Ikeme any sort of bother, and Middlesbrough were happy to sit back and then counter on their opponents as the game drifted away from Barnsley.
For the Reds' third home fixture in a week, it was a third disappointing one - lacking any sort of cutting edge in the final third. Luke Steele was the best Barnsley player - keeping Boro's McDonald, Robson and Bates at bay.
Reds: Steele, Wiseman, McEveley, Foster, Edwards, Addison (Done 84), Doyle (Davies 60), Butterfield, Perkins, O'Brien (Noble-Lazarus 71), Haynes.
Subs: Preece, Hassell.
Middlesbrough: Ikeme, Emnes, Robson, Hoyte (Hines 75), Williams, Bates, McDonald, Bennett, Arca (Smallwood 80), Bailey, McManus.
Subs: Coyne, Kink, Martin.
Referee: D. Drysdale
Assistant Referees: P. Wright & C. Akers
Fourth Official: D. Plowright
Attendance: 10, 603 (1,882 away)