Billy Davies' side had been struggling at the wrong end of the standings following an inconsistent start to the campaign.
But goals from Luke Chambers and Dexter Blackstock helped the Reds to secure their second consecutive win and ease them to within three points of the play-off places.
It was one-way traffic in the first half as an attack-minded Forest side had the visitors under almost constant pressure.
But, despite forcing seven corners in the first 45 minutes - and several clear-cut chances - the Reds were unable to turn their domination into goals.
It was a familiar tale following recent 1-0 home defeats at the hands of Blackpool and Blackburn in which missed chances had cost them dear.
But Forest were playing well - and were largely in the ascendancy.
Scunthorpe keeper Joe Murphy had to make a smart save to deny Chambers after the defender had connected with a towering header.
Blackstock twice went close with headers, as Paul Anderson and Nathan Tyson tormented Scunthorpe down the flanks.
Paul Hayes was the only Iron player to threaten during the first period but, after his driving run had put the Forest defence on the back foot, he fired his shot into the side-netting.
There was a moment of controversy as keeper Murphy was rather harshly adjudged to have handled on the edge of his area, earning him a booking and giving Forest a free-kick in a dangerous area.
But, fortunately for Scunthorpe, Radoslaw Majewski fired over when Paul McKenna's cross fell to him 12 yards out.
Murphy was soon involved in the action again after the break, making a second outstanding save, this time to deny Chris Gunter as he connected firmly with a close-range shot as he went in search of his second goal in two games.
He then challenged for the ball at the feet of Blackstock, as the striker threatened to burst clear on the edge of the box.
Unfortunately the keeper's bravery earned him an injury and he was replaced by Josh Lillis.
And the substitute shot-stopper could do little when Chambers rose powerfully at the near post to force home a powerful header in the 71st minute, as Cohen delivered a fine ball from Forest's tenth corner of the game.
Five minutes later the win was secured as Anderson raced to the byline on the right and cut a fizzing low ball across the face of goal, with Blackstock bundling home as Wright challenged.