Isaiah Jones scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season with two smart finishes
Isaiah Jones scored twice as Middlesbrough enjoyed a resounding victory over Preston.
Summer signings Rav van den Berg and Alex Bangura also netted their first goals for the club in a one-sided game at the Riverside Stadium, where the hosts were three up by half-time.
Stuttering Preston's defeat was their sixth in 10 matches and another blow for the Lancashire side after Cardiff scored twice in stoppage time to beat them on Saturday.
They dropped out of the play-off places and are now just one point better off than Boro, whose win moved them up to ninth in the Championship table, three points off the play-off spots.
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Boro had managed a total of just seven goals in their previous eight home matches - but were three up within 38 minutes.
Both Jones' goals came after slick build-up play, the first arriving in the 16th minute.
Matt Crooks combined with Daniel Barlaser and carved open Preston's defence with a lovely pass to Jones, who calmly slotted past goalkeeper Freddie Woodman.
Van den Berg doubled the lead by chesting Barlaser's right-wing corner into the net from close range.
Jones added a third with another cool finish past Woodman following more neat approach play, this time after being teed up by Morgan Rogers' perfect pass in behind the North End defence.
Preston offered little threat as Boro stayed firmly in control and Bangura's low strike from the edge of the penalty area in stoppage time beat Woodman at his near post to seal a thumping win.
- Line-upsMatch StatsLive Text
1Dieng15Dijksteel3van den Berg17McNair24Bangura16Howson4Barlaser11Jones25Crooks10Rogers9Latte Lath
- 1Dieng15Dijksteel3van den Berg17McNairSubstituted forClarkeat 82'minutes24Bangura16HowsonSubstituted forMcCabeat 88'minutes4Barlaser11JonesSubstituted forSilveraat 70'minutes25CrooksSubstituted forGilbertat 82'minutes10RogersSubstituted forGreenwoodat 70'minutes9Latte Lath
- 1Woodman14Storey6Lindsay16HughesBooked at 82mins44PottsBooked at 65mins4Whiteman18LedsonSubstituted forWhatmoughat 88'minutes33BestSubstituted forWoodburnat 65'minutes7KeaneSubstituted forRamsayat 45'minutes10FrÃ¶kjaer-JensenSubstituted forStewartat 88'minutes28OsmajicSubstituted forEvansat 45'minutes
Referee:Andrew KitchenAttendance:24,502Match StatsHome TeamMiddlesbroughAway TeamPrestonPossessionHome58%Away42%ShotsHome13Away6Shots on TargetHome8Away1CornersHome7Away3FoulsHome15Away14Live Text Post update
Match ends, Middlesbrough 4, Preston North End 0.
Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 4, Preston North End 0.
Goal! Middlesbrough 4, Preston North End 0. Alex Bangura (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Sam Greenwood.
Attempt blocked. Layton Stewart (Preston North End) header from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Brad Potts with a cross.
Foul by Sam Greenwood (Middlesbrough).
Calvin Ramsay (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Law McCabe (Middlesbrough).
Layton Stewart (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Preston North End. Jack Whatmough replaces Ryan Ledson.
Substitution, Preston North End. Layton Stewart replaces Mads FrÃ¶kjaer-Jensen.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Law McCabe replaces Jonny Howson.
Attempt blocked. Daniel Barlaser (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sam Greenwood.
Foul by Matt Clarke (Middlesbrough).
Ched Evans (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Matt Clarke replaces Paddy McNair.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Alex Gilbert replaces Matt Crooks.
Andrew Hughes (Preston North End) is shown the yellow card.
Matt Crooks (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Andrew Hughes (Preston North End).
Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Freddie Woodman.
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