Middlesbrough took advantage of what coach Paul described as 'sloppy play' to carve out a number of chances in the first half at the Riverside Stadium.
A combination of Luke McGee in goal and good defending kept the home side at bay and after a half-time ticking off, the lads came out a better team after the break.
Jayson Leutwiler was the busier of the two goalkeeepers, the pick of his saves to deny Shaq Coulthirst and Ruben Lameiras, but he could do nothing to prevent Giancarlo Gallifuoco converting Ruben's cross at the far post for the winner with only eight minutes remaining.
It stayed 1-0
as the lads bagged a second-successive win in the Barclays U21 Premier League - with Arsenal next at the Lane on Friday night.
"The improvement in the second half is a big thing for us," reflected coach Paul at the Riverside.
"It was a strange game. It's a long trip and we had all day to think about the game, started well but then lost the plot a bit with the quality of our play for 35 minutes.
"We've five Academy players in the team and before half-time, we looked like boys rather than senior players. By the end of the game, credit to them, we improved individually and collectively and looked like a team. Some of the defending, the blocks, made us look like men rather than boys.
"In that respect, it was good, although still difficult to work out why it went that way in the first half. There was some sloppy play, real basics and our poor passing allowed Middlesbrough to take the game to us.
"A few harsh words were said at half-time and the lads know they were nowhere near the standard expected of them. But the improvement was there from the first whistle in the second half.
"It was great for Giancarlo to score, he worked hard at the back with Dominic Ball and they also used the ball well.
"The substitutes also made a difference and we say that a lot, we want players to affect the game, Laste showed great energy, Alex McQueen shored up the right side and got the free-kick that led to the goal.
"It was good to see Nathan Oduwa get through 90 minutes for the first time (at U21 level), Filip Lesniak made his debut. It's a progression for them so, overall, we're reasonably satisfied.
"It's good to have that long journey back knowing they've responded and played somewhere near what is expected of them."