A brace from Lewis Grabban helped Nottingham Forest to a narrow victory over Rovers as 2020 began in disappointment at The City Ground.
Two goals in four first half minutes through Joe Lolley and a Grabban penalty put the hosts in command before Stewart Downing superbly gave Rovers hope going into the interval.
Rovers bossed the second half, but gifted Grabban his second and Forest's third just 10 minutes after the break.
The visitors continued to look after the ball well and Joe Worrall's own goal handed Rovers a route back into the contest, but it wasn't enough on the banks of the Trent.
The boss made four changes to his starting XI for the first game of 2020, with Amari'i Bell, Corry Evans, Adam Armstrong and Ben Brereton all starting against the Reds, with the latter coming in against the club where he began his career prior to moving to Rovers.
Opposite number Sabri Lamouchi opted for two alterations, with Joao Carvalho and Ryan Yates dropping out of the team and being replaced by Samba Sow and Lolley.
A lively opening to the game saw Joe Rothwell have the first shot in anger, but he couldn't replicate what he did at The City Ground last season, with his curled effort flying high and wide in the opening 10 minutes of the game.
At the other end, the returning Sow headed just wide from 10 yards out after getting on the end of Tiago Silva's floated corner kick.
However, it didn't take long for Rovers to grab the opener midway through the half when Lolley's teasing cross in from the right may or may not have taken the slightest of touches off Sammy Ameobi.
Three minutes later and the score was doubled from the spot. Lolley was again involed, racing onto a through ball before being taken down in the box by the onrushing Christian Walton for a stonewall spot kick.
Up stepped Forest top scorer Grabban who struck into the bottom left-hand corner to notch his 13th strike of the season.
Rovers managed to grab themselves a lifeline with five minutes of the half remaining through Downing, who superbly tucked into the top corner first time after getting on the end of Armstrong's cut back.
Forest looked to quickly restore their two-goal advantage, with the dangerous Lolley forcing Walton into a smart save down low to his right after a fast breakaway move from Lamouchi's hosts.
Without a goal in five years, Evans had a terrific opportunity to level things up, but after a fine pass behind the Forest backline by Downing, the Northern Irishman took a touch but couldn't beat Brice Samba in goal.
An improvement in the final 10 minutes of the half ensured Rovers went in just the one goal behind despite a disappointing first half overall.
It was an encouraging start to the second 45 minutes, and Darragh Lenihan headed over from a Downing corner as the visitors went in search of an equaliser.
Despite hardly having a kick of the ball, Rothwell was robbed in midfield, Grabban fed Ameobi down the left and raced into the box to collect his team-mate's cross and nod back across goal and make it 3-1 to the hosts.
A double change after the hour saw Brereton and Lewis Travis replaced, with Sam Gallagher and Harry Chapman coming on as Mowbray looked to go with more of an attacking threat during the final third of the encounter.
And that move paid off soon after as Rovers grabbed a second goal of the day through a fortunate own goal by defender Worrall.
Rothwell made up for his earlier error by setting Elliott Bennett free down the right flank with an inventive pass, and the skipper's cross was diverted into his own net by the Forest man.
Mowbray's men continued to probe for a leveller, with Downing's free kick from the edg of the box being relatively comfortable for Samba to hold with 10 minutes remaining.
Downing was the orchestrator moments later, but his cross from the right was headed wide at the near post by Armstrong.
Walton had to be on hand in the final few minutes to tip behind a Silva free kick after Tosin Adarabioyo brought down Grabban on the edge of the box, with the resulting corner kick being headed wide of the target at the near post, in what was the last opportunity of the game.
Nottingham Forest: Samba, Figueiredo, Worrall, Grabban, Watson (c), Cash, Ameobi, Sow (Semedo, 67), Lolley (Adomah, 87), Silva, Rodriguez (Robinson, 26).
Unused substitutes: Smith, Carvalho, Jenkinson, Dawson.
Goals: Lolley, 22, Grabban pen, 25, 55
Booked: Sow, 45
Rovers: Walton, Bennett (c) (Graham, 73), Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Bell, Travis (Chapman, 65), Evans, Armstrong, Rothwell, Downing, Brereton (Gallagher, 65).
Unused substitutes: Leutwiler, Williams, Johnson, Buckley.
Goals: Downing, 39, Worrall OG, 71.
Booked: Bell, 90.
Referee: Darren Bond.