FOR LEEDS UNITED, Cardiff City are something akin to the ghost of Christmas past.
No matter what fine fettle Leeds find themselves in - and they were in pretty good order ahead of the latest appearance from the Bluebirds - the Welsh outfit seem to bring elements of the worst out in United.
It arrived in a scarcely believable finale when Leeds, looking home and hosed with a three-goal lead, inexplicably managed to obliterate their handsome lead with a wretched defensive performance - and provide an unwelcome rewind to some torrid days of yore at Elland Road.
It culminated in an 88th-minute leveller from substitute Robert Glatzel as Cardiff - who have been beaten just once in 12 games against Leeds now - again gleefully dined out at the expense of Leeds and denied them an eighth successive league win for the first time since the days of Ramsey MacDonald as Prime Minister in the early thirties.
If anyone should have been angry, it was Patrick Bamford, who had left the fray with Leeds looking comfortable at 3-1 ahead after 77 minutes.
For a robust and relentless Bamford, a bout against two of the Championship's cruiserweight defenders in Sean Morrison and Aden Flint represented a significant test in his re-emergence at Leeds United.
Talk in the week had centred on the Whites' mild-mannered and erudite striker acquiring a newly-found status as an aggressive 'Mr Nasty' increasingly capable of punching his weight and landing a metaphorical punch on second-tier rivals.
It was showcased against Cardiff, who outsmarted, outran and outfought their visitors, but mostly outclassed them in the first half before spectacularly imploding late on.
Maybe affronted by West Brom's early win at Birmingham, Leeds took the stage and showed early intent to do the business again with Bamford's continued renaissance yielding a brace, with his second arriving from the spot after he tumbled under the challenge of Cardiff keeper Neil Etheridge - with the decision looking charitable.
But there was nothing controversial about United's first-half showing, which was stellar at times. Mores the pity what happened late on.
The first-half yielded two early goals. One clinical and one which was simply beautiful.
The fine art arrived on six minutes when Leeds broke from trademark ferocity from a Cardiff corner, with Pablo Hernandez's gorgeous long-range pass being a contender for assist of the season.
It required a willing runner and it found one on Helder Costa, who had staked forward before latching onto Hernandez's dream of a pass before coolly firing past Neil Etheridge before Elland Road rose to its feet in collective acclaim, minus a few diehards from South Wales.
It was a marquee moment to a rousing opening from Leeds with the tone set even before prior to Costa's thing of beauty.
Mateusz Klich and Bamford linked effortlessly with the ball falling invitingly for Hernandez, who dragged his finish wide.
For Cardiff, it had the makings of a long old day and that was reinforced by Costa's stunner - and then it was hammered home further.
Increasingly under siege, Cardiff's stricken defence failed to cope with Stuart Dallas's cross and the beefed-up Bamford blasted in his eighth of the season.
Heavy-legged and troubled in mind, Cardiff had no option but to somehow try and weather the storm.
A shot from Luke Ayling was deflected just over by Morrison before Flint's fraught afternoon was curtailed by injury - with a wound or two to his pride too.
Strong and sure-footed for Middlesbrough on this ground last season, Flint was anything but on this occasion alongside the rest of his harrassed fellow Cardiff defenders, with ex-Leeds captain Lee Peltier also handed a chasing.
Cardiff had a couple of half-moments ahead of the break with Danny Ward firing over, but it was a half which was largely all about Leeds.
Playing in front of the Gelderd End, Leeds went for the jugular with Ayling firing a presentable chance over just 19 seconds into the second half.
The wait for a third was not too long with Bamford coolly slotting home and Cardiff staring down the barrel of a rout if they could not change the narrative.
A fine chip from Klich which brought out an equally eye-catching save from Etheridge almost provided further torment for the Bluebirds.
Respite was afforded by way of a smart lob on the hour mark from Lee Tomlin, who seized upon Kiko Casilla's punch as Leeds conceded a goal for the first time in 454 minutes - just over seven-and-a-half hours.
An important clearing header from Dallas to divert a goalbound header from Morrison thwarted any attempts at a rally from the visitors.
But the comeback was most definitely on when Morrison cashed in on sloppy marking to head home - and the sting arrived in scarcely believable fashion from Glatzel.
It left Leeds in need of a special stoppage-time Christmas moment like last season. It almost happened with White firing off target with the goal at his mercy after Etheridge brilliantly saved a header from Nketiah - who was subject of a late foul from Morison, whcih yielded a red card for the Cardiff defender.
This time, there was no magic. It had to be Cardiff...
Leeds United: Casilla; Ayling, White, Berardi (Struijk 84); Dallas, Phillips, Klich, Hernandez; Costa, Bamford (Nketiah 77), Harrison (Alioski 81). Substitutes unused: Miazek, Douglas, Gotts, Clarke.
Cardiff City: Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Flint (Nelson 41), Bennett; Vaulks (Whyte 61), Pack; Mendez-Laing, Tomlin, Ralls; Ward (Glatzel 73). Substitutes unused: Smithies, Bacuna, Murphy, Paterson.