Relegation-haunted Huddersfield produced one of their best performances of the season to halt Leeds’ eight-match winning run and boost their survival hopes.
A 22-14 victory in the penultimate round of the Super 8s Qualifiers at the John Smith’s Stadium means the Giants can avoid the dreaded Million-Pound Game with a win over Hull KR at the KC Lightstream Stadium next Saturday.
The losers of that match will be at home to Salford or London Broncos in the one-off match on October 1 to determine the 12th club in Super League for 2017.
Huddersfield gave themselves renewed hope with a performance full of energy and enthusiasm that was in stark contrast to the embarrassing offering they produced at Leigh a week earlier.
The Giants had the game sewn up after establishing a 20-0 lead after 45 minutes before the Rhinos emerged from their lethargy to at least make a contest of it in the second half.
England centre Leroy Cudjoe squandered an early chance after Huddersfield had created a three-on-two potential overlap, but made amends by taking second rower Tom Symonds’ pass on nine minutes to cross for his seventh try in his last four matches.
Stand-off Danny Brough was wide with the conversion attempt, but slotted two penalty goals to stretch his side’s lead to 8-0 after half-an-hour.
Handling errors from forwards Ukuma Ta’ai and Michael Lawrence took some of the pressure off Leeds, but the visitors were even more error prone and failed to make use of three consecutive penalties on the Huddersfield line.
Substitute Adam Cuthbertson went close for the former champions, reaching the try-line only to be turned on his back, and the Giants increased their lead six minutes before half-time when winger Aaron Murphy produced a counter-attacking break to get scrum-half Ryan Brierley over for their second try.
Brough’s third goal made it 14-0 and he increased that by another six points five minutes into the second half after taking advantage of a neat offload by impressive substitute forward Sebastine Ikahihifo to score his side’s third try.
At 20-0 the contest looked to be over, but the Rhinos gave their hosts a few anxious moments when they struck a purple patch that brought them two tries in three minutes.
Cuthbertson forced his way over from close range for a try converted by Liam Sutcliffe before winger Tom Briscoe touched down his own kick to cut Huddersfield’s lead in half.
Brough eased the anxiety among the home fans in the 6,666 crowd with a third penalty on 72 minutes, but Leeds grabbed the final score when left winger Ash Handley, deputising for the injured Ryan Hall, took Jimmy Keinhorst’s pass and produced an acrobatic finish for their third try.
Leeds, who lost acting captain Rob Burrow and prop Keith Galloway with leg injuries in the second half, will hope to bounce back when they host Leigh next Thursday in a match to decide top spot in the Qualifiers.