Nottingham Forest edged closer to the Championship play-off positions on Saturday afternoon following a convincing victory against league-leaders Cardiff City.
The Reds went ahead just before the half-hour mark when veteran midfielder Andy Reid struck a curling free-kick off the underside of the bar and into the net.
And just two minutes later the home side doubled their lead in superb style - Norwich City loanee Daniel Ayala connecting perfectly to powerfully head home a Greg Halford cross.
After the interval Cardiff looked to get a foothold in the game but were soon caught out yet again by a resurgent Forest side as Billy Sharp netted his first goal for the Reds with a neat finish.
The Bluebirds did pull a goal back through Heidar Helguson’s close-range effort - but despite the Reds going down to ten men when Adlene Guedioura was sent off for a second bookable offence - Malky Mackay’s men squandered opportunities to get back in the game and Forest finished with all three points.
Cardiff began the game at the top of the Championship table but from the play in the opening moments it was difficult to pin-point the superior side with Forest controlling proceedings well.
Forest midfielder Chris Cohen has shown glowing signs since donning the red shirt again following an injury and was heavily involved early-on – fighting his way down the right before crossing for Simon Cox who failed to fully connect with the ball.
The visitors had their chance to score in the opening stages too when Scottish winger Craig Conway found fellow Scotsman Don Cowie at the far post - however the midfielder’s headed effort glanced the wrong side of the post.
Soon after the Reds took the lead - Cardiff full-back Kevin McNaughton brought down Reid in the centre just a few yards outside the area. The Irishman stepped up to zip the ball towards the top-left corner of the goal and in off the underside of the bar.
Moments after the restart the home side made it two goals in as many minutes as Halford picked up the ball down the right before finding space to fire over a probing cross that was met by Ayala to hit home with a bullet header past Bluebirds keeper David Marshall.
And the Reds nearly made it three when Cohen’s free-kick was driven in towards Forest frontman Sharp at the far post who connected with the ball but saw his effort deflected away for a corner.
After the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second period there was barely a minute on the clock when Forest had the ball in the net once again.
Radi Majewski playing a lovely one-two with Sharp to set the striker up for his first Forest goal – the Southampton striker on loan with the Reds slid the ball neatly under Marshall from the tightest of angles.
After the third goal the home side came complacent in some areas of the pitch and Cardiff brought men forward in search of something from the game. Skipper Mark Hudson came close when he rose high only to head wide from six-yards.
Cardiff did get a goal back when a ball into the box looped towards Icelandic striker Helguson who had caught the Reds defence unaware and prodded past Camp with ease.
The visitors pushed for a second and came painfully close when Tommy Smith fired against the woodwork before Craig Noone was denied by an Ayala block and a reaction save from Forest keeper Lee Camp.
In the closing stages Hudson denied Cohen with a goal-line clearance before Guedioura was sent off for the second time this season following a challenge on Andrew Taylor having earlier being booked for stimulation.
Forest are now just two points adrift of the play-off positions and sit 11th in the Championship. They travel to Bloomfield Road next to face Blackpool on Tuesday 23rd October. Kick-off is at 8pm.
Nottingham Forest: Camp, Halford, Ayala, Collins, Harding, Gillett, Cohen, Guedioura, Reid (Moussi, 74), Sharp, Cox (Majewski, 46(Moloney, 89))
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton (Mason, 81), Taylor, Hudson, Whittingham, Cowie, Conway (Noone, 57), Connelly, Smith, Gunnarsson, (Gestede, 65), Helguson
Man of the match: Daniel Ayala
Referee: Darren Drysdale
Attendance: 21,491 (Away: 1,856)