It works because it forces an escalation, and much (I might even say most) of the time, escalation is what stuck plots need. (Also, it's good, if you are looking for tension, if you can force an escalation in each and every scene. But along with the escalations have to come small resolutions, or the escalation gets boring.)
So. To explan it in the simplest and most mechanistic terms I can: in each scene, resolve something small, and make something bigger worse. (Until you get to the climax and the denouement. Because then, the rules change.)
Every scene in a tightly plotted novel involves at least one change, and often several.
Or, another way: So you're a captive. (dilemma) And your boyfriend comes to rescue you. (resolution) But he gets caught. (escalation) And he's going to be executed. (escalation) So you figure out how to get him out. (resolution) But your clever plan winds up with you suspended over a pit of lava. (escalation)
Escalation is the ---but!
*this advice applies to thriller plots, and other plots dependent upon narrative tension. In long form, this is what I write. In short form, there are other things I do.