Earlier in the week assistant manager David Kelly said McGugan was playing with "magic in his boots", having seen the 21-year-old score a superb free-kick against Middlesbrough and a fine solo effort at Barnsley.
And McGugan justified the glowing praise by unleashing a magnificent 35-yard drive on the stroke of half-time to help secure the Reds all three points after David McGoldrick had opened the scoring with his first goal of the season.
The visitors were boosted heading into the clash by the return of goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who missed Ipswich's 2-1 defeat at Watford in midweek after picking up a back injury in training and had not been expected to recover in time.
Forest manager Billy Davies, meanwhile, made two changes to the side that defeated Middlesbrough, with Kelvin Wilson coming in for the suspended Ryan Bertrand and McGoldrick starting in attack.
The latter's inclusion resulted in a change in formation up front, with the former Southampton striker playing on his own ahead of an attacking midfield.
And Davies' tactical switch paid dividends as early as the 12th minute, with Forest taking the lead after a strong start.
Radoslaw Majewski sent a sublime pass down the line to Chris Cohen, who continued before sending an inch-perfect cross for McGoldrick to score.
After taking the lead, Forest continued to find a lot of space in the Ipswich half but were almost undone midway through the half.
Jack Colback evaded the attention of Forest's defence but saw his shot cleared off the line by Luke Chambers, before the same man blocked another goalward drive moments later.
The home side, though, survived and continued to edge the opening period, although McGugan's wayward 25-yard effort in the 31st minute never threatened the Ipswich goal.
But on the stroke of half-time McGugan found his range in extraordinary fashion, unleashing a 35-yard drive that flew into the top corner.
McGugan continued in a similar vein of form after the break and came agonisingly close to helping Forest to a third goal, with his cross evading Fulop but also Paul Anderson at the far post.
Forest continued to press and substitute Nathan Tyson had a seemingly stonewall penalty waved away in the 70th minute, although referee Andy Woolmer decided the appeal was frivolous.
As the clock wound down Ipswich began to attack with more vigour, with Connor Wickham looking particularly dangerous, although Forest kept a clean sheet and their two-goal advantage at the final whistle.