AN 87th-minute strike from Huddersfield Town top-scorer James Vaughan secured a massive three points in the Terriers’ survival quest, while inflicting a near-fatal blow on Leeds’ play-off hopes in the process.
Town’s top-scorer, back in action after serving a two-match ban, kept his cool to finish clinically past Paddy Kenny after latching onto Jack Hunt’s through ball following a searing counter-attack from the visitors.
It was the loan striker’s ninth goal of the campaign - and crowned an industrious display from the frontman.
His strike was the cue for scores of home fans to make for their exits, with United now needing a miracle to gatecrash the top six.
Before Vaughan’s strike, the derby looked destined to finish with honours shared with Aidan White’s first-ever league goal - and second of his career - having cancelled out Neil Danns’ opener.
The United substitute scored with his first touch on the hour, just two minutes after coming on, heading past Alex Smithies after ghosting in front of Hunt after Town’s defence criminally failed to cope with a punt forward from Tom Lees.
Town had taken the lead just six minutes earlier with Danns’s first goal for the club, the loan midfielder firing home on the volley on 54 minutes, low past Kenny at the near post to send the Town visiting contingent into raptures.
The midfielder had latched onto a header from Vaughan, whose initial shot had been blocked.
Both sides had chances to win it before Vaughan’s decisive intervention, with Danny Ward’s snapshot beaten away by Kenny while Town survived a massive scare 14 minutes from time when a thundering volley from Rudy Austin smashed against the bar with Smithies beaten.
Action in the first period had seen United hold sway for the most part, with Neil Warnock’s troops going desperately close to taking the lead twice inside the first 10 minutes.
In contrast, Town’s forays were more infrequent, but they too could reflect on two big moments which almost yielded a breakthrough.
The home fans were almost celebrating a goal after just three minutes with only a brilliant goal-line clearance by Town captain Peter Clarke preventing Luke Varney from giving United the lead following a perfectly-timed header from Stephen Warnock’s vicious inswinging corner.
On 10 minutes, Smithies then produced a brilliant one-handed save to block El-Hadji Diouf’s goalbound low shot.
Eleven minutes later, a glaring chance was spurned by Vaughan, who smacked a free header wastefully against the bar with the whole goal to aim at after latching onto Ward’s cross.
Moments before the interval, a fine reaction save from Kenny turned away Ward’s header as the hosts’ run without a goal in the first half of matches was extended to 14 matches.
Leeds United: Kenny; Byram, Lees, Peltier, Warnock; Green (White 58), Austin, Tonge; Diouf, Habibou (Hall 58), Varney. Substitutes not used: Ashdown, Pearce, Brown, Norris,, Dawson.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies; Hunt, Gerrard, Clarke, Dixon; Clayton, Gobern (Woods 90), Norwood (Beckford 76), Danns; Vaughan, Ward (Scannell 76). Substitutes not used: Bennett, Woods, Novak, Wallace, T Robinson.
Referee: A Marriner (West Mids).