Vaughan played 74 minutes as Billy Davies’ Reds continued their fine run of form to move within six points of second-place QPR.
Henri Lansbury scored twice from the spot for Forest before Ben Marshall pulled a goal back for Rovers who were punished by late strikes from Jamie Paterson and former Black Cat Andy Reid.
Meanwhile, Connor Wickham played 90 minutes as Sheffield Wednesday extended their unbeaten run to seven games with a 1-1 draw at high-flying Burnley.
The England youth international provided the assist for Chris Maguire’s leveller after Sam Vokes had opened the scoring for the Clarets.
The point keeps Wednesday out of the drop-zone by two points whilst Sean Dyche’s Burnley drop to third.
Elsewhere, Mikael Mandron made his home debut for Fleetwood Town as the Cod Army beat Hartlepool United 2-0 at the Highbury Stadium.
Sunderland’s young striker played the final 37 minutes and provided the assist for Alex Marrow’s second after Jon Parkin had earlier given Graham Alexander’s side the lead.
Fleetwood sit sixth in League Two, just two points behind Burton Albion in the third automatic promotion place, whilst Pools drop to 16th – five points above the relegation zone.
In non-league, Sunderland pair Liam Marrs and Liam Agnew both featured as Boston United kept their playoff hopes alive in the Skrill North with a 4-1 success over promotion rivals Solihull Moors.
Agnew played 73 minutes whilst Marrs completed the full game as the Pilgrims were thankful to striker Ricky Miller who netted a hat-trick after Scott Garner’s opener was cancelled out by Omar Bogle.
The win sees Boston leapfrog Moors into sixth position with both sides only out of the top five on goal difference.