Joel Piroe scored a dramatic stoppage-time penalty as Leeds beat Preston at Elland Road to move within four points of the Championship automatic promotion spots.
The hosts were stunned after 65 seconds when Liam Lindsay’s header back across the 18-yard box fell to Liam Millar who pinged a low ball across the six-yard area for Will Keane to turn home his fifth goal in six games.
The lead lasted just a few minutes in a helter-skelter start as Crysencio Summerville played in Junior Firpo who stood up a cross to the back post where Dan James headed in.
Preston withstood plenty of second-half pressure and looked to have earned a point until Piroe coolly stroked home his spot-kick after the ball bounced up on to the arm of Preston midfielder Ryan Ledson.
Piroe’s 12th goal of the season gave Leeds a 10th win in their last 11 games at home and to within four points of second-placed Southampton and third-placed Ipswich who visit leaders Leicester on Monday.
Preston, who were top of the table in September, fell to a fifth defeat in seven matches and stay 12th.
Daniel Farke’s Leeds side are now unbeaten in their 14 league matches at Elland Road this season – the longest in England’s top four divisions – but looked vulnerable early on with Preston showing plenty of attacking intent.
After a goal apiece in the opening six minutes, Millar’s rising shot had to be palmed out by Illan Meslier as Ryan Lowe’s men exploited space in behind the hosts’ high line before United gradually forced the visitors back.
The in-form Patrick Bamford almost pounced when Andrew Hughes overegged a header back to goalkeeper Dai Cornell and Georginio Rutter put a free header over the bar from Ilia Gruev’s corner.
But hard-working Preston largely stifled the home threat before the break.
Leeds came out fired up for the second half as Rutter’s shot hit the side of the post, teed up by Summerville’s thrilling driving run, and James twice sped clear, his first run denied by the advancing Cornell before a chip over the keeper found the roof of the net.
The hosts continued to press, but Preston were able to hold them at arm’s length, prompting a Leeds double change in the 77th minute, including striker Piroe who immediately increased the attacking threat.
Robbie Brady’s brilliant last-ditch challenge to stop Bamford going clean through typified Preston’s resolve, but it all proved in vain as Ledson’s outstretched arm convinced referee David Webb to point to the spot.
Piroe stepped up to send Cornell the wrong way and boost Leeds’ chances of securing an immediate return to the Premier League.
- 3FirpoBooked at 76minsSubstituted forByramat 76′minutes
- 8KamaraSubstituted forPiroeat 76′minutes
- 24RutterBooked at 67minsSubstituted forJosephat 90+8′minutes
- 10SummervilleBooked at 38minsSubstituted forCooperat 90+6′minutes
- 9BamfordBooked at 85mins
- 21CornellBooked at 83mins
- 6LindsayBooked at 62mins
- 10Frökjaer-JensenSubstituted forWoodburnat 90′minutes
- 4WhitemanBooked at 8mins
- 13McCannBooked at 34minsSubstituted forLedsonat 70′minutesBooked at 85mins
- 23MillarSubstituted forBrowneat 77′minutes
- 7KeaneSubstituted forBradyat 77′minutes
- 19RiisSubstituted forStewartat 77′minutesBooked at 86mins
- David Webb
Match ends, Leeds United 2, Preston North End 1.
Second Half ends, Leeds United 2, Preston North End 1.
Foul by Mateo Joseph (Leeds United).
Brad Potts (Preston North End) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Leeds United. Mateo Joseph replaces Georginio Rutter.
Foul by Georginio Rutter (Leeds United).
Brad Potts (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Leeds United. Liam Cooper replaces Crysencio Summerville.
Goal! Leeds United 2, Preston North End 1. Joël Piroe (Leeds United) converts the penalty with a left footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Penalty conceded by Ryan Ledson (Preston North End) with a hand ball in the penalty area.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Ben Woodburn.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Robert Brady.
Substitution, Preston North End. Ben Woodburn replaces Mads Frökjaer-Jensen.
Attempt missed. Patrick Bamford (Leeds United) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ilia Gruev with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Brad Potts.
Ilia Gruev (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Layton Stewart (Preston North End).
Daniel James (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Robert Brady (Preston North End).
Attempt saved. Joël Piroe (Leeds United) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Ilia Gruev.