Jonathan Woodgate praised Bournemouth’s team spirit after they gave their Sky Bet Championship play-off hopes a boost with a crucial 3-1 victory over his old club Middlesbrough.
Bournemouth looked comfortable at half-time after Philip Billing’s 14th-minute volley had given them an early lead.
But Duncan Watmore’s well-taken equaliser in the second half threatened to deny the Cherries victory before further goals from Jefferson Lerma and Dominic Solanke sealed the points.
Woodgate, sacked as manager by Boro in June, said: “There are eight games to go and plenty more twists and turns. We know what this league brings and it is always tough to get results.
“Upsets happen at different times that you do not see coming but we ground out a performance in the end today to win 3-1.
“We are becoming more together and have more team spirit, we showed that in the second half. It was a sticky spell after they made it 1-1 but we quickly started playing again.
“This is the business end of the season where your big players showed up.
“Being a manager is much more difficult than being a player but when we win, I don’t half enjoy it.
“I will enjoy tonight, get some nice Chinese food and a nice bottle of wine.”
The Cherries took the lead when Arnaut Danjuma acrobatically hooked the ball forward for Billing to send an unstoppable left-footed volley crashing into the net.
Boro almost equalised in the final seconds of the first half when Marc Bola’s looping header clipped the top of the crossbar with Asmir Begovic beaten.
The visitors were back on level terms in the 63rd minute courtesy of Watmore’s seventh goal of the season.
Yannick Bolasie played the ball into Watmore who took a lovely deft touch to get it out from under his feet and caressed his shot beyond Begovic from an acute angle.
Boro’s joy lasted just four minutes before Bournemouth retook the lead from Lerma’s deflected shot from just inside the 18-yard box after Billing had crossed from the left.
Solanke wrapped up the win for Bournemouth seven minutes from time with his 12th goal of the season, hammering in the rebound after Marcus Bettinelli had found his initial effort too hot to handle.
Boro boss Neil Warnock bemoaned his side’s defending but claimed he was happy with their overall performance.
Warnock said: “There were a lot of plusses but the goals were so disappointing to give away.
“When Duncan equalised, I thought there was only one team that were going to win it.
“The second and third goals came from elementary mistakes but I enjoyed watching us. We had more chances than them and overall there was not a lot wrong.
“When you look at the players we had out injured and with a couple more signings, it is quite exciting.”