AMID all the luxury yachts and court cases and other off-field nonsense that seems to have characterised this season for Leeds United, football has become almost a secondary thought.
In certain defeats, this has not been a bad thing. Last night, however, was one of those games that made hearts that have been heavy for so long truly sing.
Against a Bournemouth side which arrived and left Elland Road sitting proudly atop the Championship, Luke Murphy’s stunning first-half strike was enough to seal a first league double of the season for the Yorkshire club.
But it told only half the story of the final night before Massimo Cellino has to step aside and hand control to others following his ban by the Football League.
United were, quite simply, outstanding as head coach Neil Redfearn threw caution to the wind and sent his side out to take the game to the leaders.
His reward was a performance packed full of guile and grit. More importantly, he also got a precious three points, achieved despite the hosts being reduced to 10 men when Giuseppe Bellusci was sent off and Bournemouth being awarded a late penalty for a foul which occurred outside the box. But Yann Kermorgant missed from 12 yards to ensure justice was served.
Elland Road was under half-full, but any notion this might lead to a low-key affair was dispersed with two teams clearly committed to attack meaning that play raged from one end to the other at such a frantic pace that, at times, it resembled a tennis rally.
The upshot was drama aplenty for the 17,634 crowd that had braved freezing temperatures.
Amid the often frenzied wave of attacks, some players still possessed sufficient skill to catch the eye. For Bournemouth, it was Callum Wilson with the striker looking a threat whenever he was within 30 yards of the home goal.
For Leeds, meanwhile, Lewis Cook was simply masterful as the teenager continued to prove that even amid the wreckage of this season a talent such as his can still flourish.
He was at the heart of everything United did, playing a team-mate through here and then following that by chasing an opponent down in such a fashion that he resembled a Canadian mountie.
And after invariably getting his man, Cook would then launch another Leeds attack. It was from one such interception of a Bournemouth pass that United claimed the only goal, the ball being immediately played to Rodolph Austin who, in turn, found Murphy.
Twenty yards from goal, the midfielder had just one thought and that was to thunder a shot goalwards that Artur Boruc in the visitors’ goal never stood a chance of keeping out.
Going ahead was no more than the hosts deserved, many of the chances that had been created by the time Murphy broke the deadlock on 36 minutes having fallen to a white shirt.
Austin’s header from close range was tipped over by Boruc early on and the Jamaican followed that by dragging a shot just wide after being released by Steve Morison. Then, Murphy brought a flying save from Boruc with a thunderous 25-yard effort as United’s fast tempo proved too much for Bournemouth.
Not that this meant the first half ended without chances for the Championship leaders, with only a last-gasp save on the line by Marco Silvestri keeping out Wilson’s header.
Silvestri also had to get down smartly to deny Wilson just after Murphy’s goal before Brett Pitman swept in the rebound only to be given offside.
Play continued to rage from one end to the other after the interval, though many of the better early chances fell to Bournemouth and Wilson, in particular.
After racing 40 yards with several white shirts trailing in his wake, the Cherries striker flicked wide from a tight angle.
Then, after being played in behind a statuesque United defence, Wilson inexplicably shot wide.
It was a massive let-off for Leeds, who should have made the game safe 13 minutes from time when, first, Sam Byram brought a fine block from Boruc and then Austin’s follow-up header was denied by Tommy Elphick.
Bournemouth’s response was to tear down the other end, where Marc Pugh fired against a post.
A lifeline then seemed to have arrived for the Cherries when Bellusci was adjudged to have fouled Wilson inside the area.
The Italian was immediately red carded for a professional foul, but salvation awaited Leeds as Kermorgant fired the resulting spot-kick against the crossbar to cap a remarkable night of drama.
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, C Taylor; Byram, Cook, Murphy; Mowatt (Pearce 87), Austin (Berardi 90), Morison (Sharp 67). Unused substitutes: Antenucci, S Taylor, Pearce, Bianchi, Doukara.
Bournemouth: Boruc; Daniels, Cook, Elphick, Francis; Pugh, Arter (Gosling 60), Surman, Ritchie (Stanislas 72); Wilson, Pitman (Kermorgant 60. Unused substitutes: Allsop, Smith, Fraser, O’Kane.
Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).