Middlesbrough’s Premier League relegation fears increased on Saturday with a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham.
They failed to pose an attacking threat for much of the game and it was Fulham who came closest to breaking the deadlock when striker Andy Johnson’s first-half shot came back off the inside of the post.
Boro move above Newcastle United into 18th place and are six points clear of bottom club West Bromwich Albion, but remain in the relegation zone three points adrift of Blackburn.
They have five matches left to play including Arsenal next Sunday and leaders Manchester United on May 2.
“It wasn’t a performance I can be too critical of. Every player played with everything they had, with passion and heart,” Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate told the BBC.
“We’re still in their fighting and we know it’s a mountain to climb but we’re taking little steps. We’re going to have to win a game people don’t expect us to,” he said.
Stoke City recorded their third win in four games to move eight points clear of the relegation zone, courtesy of midfielder Liam Lawrence’s 75th minute winner against a resolute Blackburn Rovers.
On-loan Sunderland striker Djibril Cisse’s first-half header secured three precious points against Hull City to move them into 15th place and edge their visitors closer to the relegation mix.
Hull sit in 16th, one place above Blackburn with both sides just three points clear of Middlesbrough having all played 33 games.
Elsewhere, Nigerian striker Nwankwo Kanu’s 79th-minute strike handed Portsmouth a 1-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers at Fratton Park to move them six points clear of the drop zone.
Fifth placed Aston Villa drew 1-1 with West Ham United to make it eight league games without a win.
England striker Emile Heskey gave Villa the lead after 11 minutes when he met James Milner’s cut back before Spanish striker Diego Tristan equalized for West Ham five minutes from time.