RELIEVING late goals from Chris Wood and substitute Souleymane Doukara earned Leeds United a dramatic victory over spirited Burton Albion in a pulsating finish.
United were far from at their best against Nigel Clough’s visitors, but dug in to chisel out what could turn out to be an extremely vital win.
The hosts were afforded spot-kick joy for the second successive match with Wood’s tenth goal of the season - and third in successive matches at Elland Road - breaking the deadlock seven minutes from time after Ben Turner felled Doukara in the box after a brilliantly perceptive pass from the fit-again Pablo Hernandez.
United then added a killer second deep in stoppage time when Burton were caught with bodies stranded upfield with Doukara sent clear and he bundled the goal home to register his first goal at Elland Road since January 23.
It earned Leeds a flattering win, but in the final analysis, supporters will not be caring a jot.
Neither side were unable to conjure a breakthrough in a goalless first-half, with Burton giving as good as they got.
United, who restored Hernandez to their starting line-up in place of midweek spot-kick hero Ronaldo Vieira in one of nine changes to the side who eliminated Norwich City in the EFL Cup, failed to bring their A-game to the table against competent visitors.
Leeds did manufacture a couple of moments of genuine danger with a blistering goalbound drive from Luke Ayling diverted by the knee of Jackson Irvine in the ninth minute and Turner clearing in the nick of time after Hadi Sacko found space on the right, with his pullback blocked by Burton keeper Jon McLaughlin - but no home player could bundle in the rebound.
It was Burton, on their first ever competitive visit to Elland Road, who went closest to making the breakthrough nine minutes before the break when a swinging free-kick from Matt Palmer was headed against the top of his own bar by Whites captain Kyle Bartley, under pressure from Irvine.
On two minutes, Leeds were also handed a scare when Turner’s header from a corner was cleared close to his own goalline by Eunan O’Kane.
After a low-key and frustrating opening half, Leeds were forced onto the back foot by the spirited visitors on the restart, with an early salvo seeing interval substitute Stuart Beavon fire a crisp shot over.
Taking confidence from United’s inhibited showing, Burton grew in confidence and spurned an excellent chance to break the deadlock on 49 minutes.
Turner should have done better when he headed over from close range after O’Grady nodded a cross from Beavon across the six-yard box into his path - with the reaction of the big giant centre-back suggesting he have missed a golden opportunity.
Leeds, attacking the Geldard End, struggled to create much of an impression upon the Burton rearguard before a moment of much-needed quality close to the hour mark see them go desperately close to a breakthrough.
A lovely slide-rule pass from Ayling dissected the Brewers rearguard and Roofe was onto it in a flash, with his low shot past the onrushing McLaughlin going inches wide.
The £3m man then saw a low shot gathered by McLaughlin before Hernandez fired over when well placed after his initial shot was blocked by John Brayford.
The hosts were starting to show signs of taking a semblance of control in a mini-spell of assertion, but the visitors weathered the storm with Lucas Akins heading over at the other end following an inviting centre from Palmer.
Palmer then spurned a good free-kick chance after Pontus Jansson received a caution for a foul on Beavon, with his effort blocked by the United defensive wall.
Out of nothing, Leeds were afforded a penalty lifeline when Turner’s heavy challenge on Doukara after a sublime assist from Hernandez, with Wood emphatically blasting home the spot-kick past Jon McLaughlin.
Kalvin Phillips spurned a chance to make it 2-0 when he shot straight at McLaughlin when well placed before Burton were presented with a great set-piece opportunity following substitute Vieira’s foul on Beavon.
The free-kick from Palmer and follow-up from Irvine were blocked and the ball made its way to the other end with Doukara in the clear and despite being brought down from behind by Tom Naylor, an advantage was played and Doukara bundled the ball home, receiving a booking for his exuberant celebrations in the process.
“It wasn’t the best of performances, considering the context of the week we have had,” United head coach Garry Monk said. “Today was important and it was important to get the win.
“We are not overly happy with the performance but are delighted with the desire to get the win.
“I was pushing the players to put on a good performance, but I knew it would be hard after Tuesday night.
“We showed real character and determination to fight to the end. We had to scrap but we knew we would get chances and it was about taking those chances.
“There is great spirit and the boys are confident, there is a good mood around the place and we have had a great week.
“We had to defend really well today and we did that on the whole. Our mentality is getting stronger and we will always be in with a chance of winning the game.
“We saw the game out well and it’s been a successful week. You get rewarded for hard work.”
Burton had come closest to opening the scoring when Ben Turner crashed a header against the Leeds crossbar on 35 minutes.
The defeat leaves Burton still searching for their first ever Championship away win.
Leeds United: Green; Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Taylor; O’Kane, Phillips; Sacko (Mowatt 90), Hernandez (Vieira 89), Roofe (Doukara 74); Wood. Substitutes unused: Silvestri, Cooper, Berardi, Antonsson.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin; Brayford, McFadzean, Turner, Dyer; Palmer, Irvine, Williamson (Naylor 76), Akins; O’Grady, Ward (Beavon 45). Substitutes unused: Mousinho, Bywater, Choudhury, Miller, Flanagan.
Referee: J Simpson (Lancashire).
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