MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray refused to view this as the one that got away.
When midfielder Andrew Taylor scored Boro’s third to go 3-1 up, it looked like being a triumphant return to Portman Road for Mowbray.
But Ipswich clawed back a two-goal deficit to earn a point in an enthralling clash.
Town seemed to have been on course to record a fourth straight win and close further ground on the top six after ex-Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter struck inside the opening 10 minutes.
But they capitulated either side of the break as Mowbray’s side overturned the lead thanks to Andy Halliday’s tap-in and Scott McDonald’s close-range finish before half-time, with Taylor adding a third soon after the break.
Connor Wickham, who had two efforts ruled out for offside, finally netted when he headed home from six yards to give Ipswich hope and they made sure of the point when Leadbitter scored his second from the penalty spot.
Despite the rally, their season looks over as they sit eight points off the play-offs with five games to play while Boro are happy to be safe, well clear of the drop zone.
Mowbray was satisfied to come away with a point despite his side surrendering a two-goal lead.
The Boro boss said: “I can only praise my players. Would I have taken a point before the game? Probably.
“We tired at the death but great credit to Ipswich who refused to be beaten.”
On Andy Halliday, who scored one goal and made two, he added: “He did well and was a real goal threat. He’s a very infectious boy.
“If some of our strikers had been fit he wouldn’t have played but he grabbed his opportunity with both hands.”
Paul Jewell’s men knew they had to put in a near-perfect record between now and the end of the season if they were to sneak into the play-offs and their fast start reflected that.
After early pressure, they forced a corner and Leadbitter gave his side a sixth-minute lead when he drove home his fourth league goal of the season, which took a healthy deflection.
After barely creating anything throughout the opening 40 minutes, Boro turned the game on its head by scoring two goals inside 90 seconds to take an unlikely lead.
First Halliday was left with the simplest of finishes in the 42nd minute after Damien Delaney’s sliced clearance left Town keeper Arran Lee-Barrett stranded and bounced off the bar and into the substitute’s path.
And before the Boro supporters could catch their breath they were celebrating again when Halliday turned provider with a cute touch which found McDonald free inside the six-yard box and the former Celtic midfielder made no mistake.
Boro did not have to wait long for their third as they struck again in the 51st minute and Halliday was again the architect as he slid in Taylor and he collected the ball and finished in style past ex-Pools keeper Arran Lee Barrett.
Wickham finally beat Boro’s offside trap in the 64th minute to give his side hope of earning at least a point when he met Jimmy Bullard’s delivery with a thumping header.
Wickham went close again, but was denied by Smith, before Town completed the comeback after Leadbitter converted a penalty with 14 minutes remaining.
Ipswich: Lee-Barrett, McAuley, Delaney, Carson, Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Bullard, Kennedy (O’Dea 83), Wickham, Scotland (Martin 59). Subs: Fulop, Peters, O’Dea, Martin, Drury, Healy, Civelli.
Middlesbrough: Smith, Bates, McManus, Hines (Williams 35), Taylor, Bennett, McMahon, Zemmama (Halliday 16), Arca, McDonald, Kink (Thomson 72). Subs: Coyne, Davies, Williams, Thomson, Halliday, Smallwood, Tavares.
Ref: Mr Russell Att: 17,286