A brilliantly taken goal by David Nugent gave Leicester City a win that lifted them into the second automatic promotion place in the Championship. The Foxes also hit the woodwork three times, but they needed their goalkeeper, Kasper Schmeichel, to save a stoppage-time penalty in a match of sufficient quality to suggest both these sides could be playing Premier League football next season.

"I think we applied ourselves really well tonight," said the Leicester manager, Nigel Pearson. "We had the best chances throughout the game and Kasper made a great save at the end. It's games like this that can define seasons."

Pearson also thanked supporters who had got to the game, which should arguably not have been played. The pitch was fine but snow caused such chaos around the city that the Middlesbrough team left their coach and walked the final few hundred yards, while several Leicester players abandoned their cars and arrived on foot.

As a result kick-off was delayed until 8pm and to judge by social media and the banks of empty seats thousands of supporters who would have liked to attend either gave up their attempt or did not set out at all. But football has long ceased thinking too hard about supporters when it is being televised live anyway.

Leicester, unsurprisingly, were unchanged on the back of consecutive victories while the Middlesbrough manager, Tony Mowbray, made two changes to the side beaten by Watford last weekend. With four defeats in their last five matches away from home his 4-5-1 formation implied solidity was the priority but it was Boro who had the first good chance. The full-back George Friend drove down the left and his low cross was only half-cleared, sitting up nicely for Scott McDonald to volley over the angle of Schmeichel's goal.

With Nugent setting up Chris Wood for a shot well saved by Jason Steele and McDonald curling a shot disappointingly wide after a swift Middlesbrough counter-attack, those supporters who had trekked in were at least getting value for money.

The closest the first half came to yielding a goal was when Nugent's lay-off gave Anthony Knockaert the chance to run at the Boro defence on the left. The France Under-21 international's shot, slightly deflected by Seb Hines, looped over Steele, hit the underside of the bar, bounced down and spun back against the post before rebounding to safety.

Michael Keane also hit the top of the bar with a header from a Wood cross but the visitors had created good opportunities, and did so again when Josh McEachran put Emmanuel Ledesma through with only Schmeichel to beat, only for the Argentinian to chip his effort wide.

Remarkably, Leicester hit the woodwork again when Wood headed a Paul Konchesky cross against the post but Nugent finally broke the deadlock 20 minutes from time. Wood flicked the ball on and from a difficult angle 15 yards from goal Nugent, on the half-volley, lifted it brilliantly beyond Steele.

Middlesbrough should have taken a point after Jamie Vardy brought down Rhys Williams in the City penalty area, only for Marvin Emnes to hit his penalty too close to Schmeichel. "I thought we did enough not to lose," said Mowbray. "We created more than enough chances to get something and we have to be more clinical."