BORO'S away day heroics at Euro-hopefuls Aston Villa and Everton were built on foundations of solid rock. For the second week running Boro travelled to an in-form outfit above them in the table - and the pundit's tips as the teams most likely to break into the Champions League quadropoly - and passed the test.
Against Villa, Boro faced the blistering pace and attacking intent of a lightning front line of Agbonlahor, Young and Milner and were right up to speed on the day.
At Everton they were tested to destruction by a far more physical and direct but no less urgent style and by the robust penalty box presence of Yakubu and again came through.
In a demanding 96 minute war of attrition at Goodison, Boro's rear guard stood firm.
They grappled with the Yak, put shackles on Saha and coped with the elusive movement from deep in midfield of impressive Cahill. They will have been bitterly disappointed to concede what will appear a sloppy goal from a set-piece after a routine free-kick in from the left, and doubly so that it was Yakubu that bundled it home.
But that shouldn't detract from what has been an impressive gelling of a solid unit at the back after some early season stutters as the personnel was chopped and changed.
The central defensive pairing is always crucial and the manager must get it right.
Gareth Southgate took a huge gamble when he switched David Wheater - 'one of our own' - away from his favoured role in the middle to play skipper Emanuel Pogatetz and Chris Riggott against Blackburn but it paid off.
And as the duo hit it off he resisted the temptation to tinker and stuck with them for the torrid frenzy of West Ham and then went with the men in form for the huge demands of the two tough trips. Experience has showed that Riggott has often been the fall guy in those situations, finding himself back in the stiffs even after sterling displays.
It was a gamble that paid off with the pair putting in a string of spirited and steely shows, crunching into tackles, heading away periods of aerial assault and throwing their bodies into brave blocks.
In recent weeks they have been in keen competition for the man of the match awards and Gazette stars. Against Everton they wrestled with Yakubu, kept a firm grip on red hot frontman Saha and put in some clinical thundering block tackles when the pressure started to mount.
Unfortunately for Riggott his injury hoodoo struck again. Just as he gets into the groove he seems to pick up a knock and this time was left limping heavily after tangling with former Riverside team-mate Yak early in the second half. But how nice is it to have Wheater come on refreshed, hungry and raring to go after his two games on the bench?
It is not just about the big lads in the middle though. Both full-backs have also put in eye-catching shifts of late.
Justin Hoyte arrived from Arsenal having missed pre-season with his new team-mates and used to playing, when he got on, for in a team that dominated games and spent most of their time on the attack so to find himself playing with his back to the wall for long spells must have been a culture shock.
He came in for some early stick from the snipers (as ironically had Luke Young before him) but has gradually found his feet, formed an understanding with the players around him and is now flourishing and winning supporters over.
His mid-air leap to cut out a cross-field pass with his chest and turn defence into attack at Villa was exquisite but increasingly typical of his interventions. Against Everton he was a livewire presence again and kept the creative potential of Arteta firmly in check.
He has pace and anticipation and is clean in the tackle when on his defensive duties but his surging over-lapping down the right has added to Boro's attacking armoury too.
On the other flank Andrew Taylor too has also been growing with every game after a rocky start to the season when he was unsure of his place and dropped for Pogatetz.
Sharp and alert he has helped tame bigger and faster forwards but also offers width on the left and links up well with potent Stewart Downing.
Boro are five unbeaten and growing in confidence as they look up the table. The lads at the back deserve their share of the plaudits for that.