Leeds kept tabs on the Championship’s top two by outgunning 10-man Middlesbrough in an end-to-end thriller to register a seventh successive Elland Road victory.
Headers from Leeds pair Daniel James and Crysencio Summerville – the two shortest players on the pitch – eclipsed Emmanuel Latte Lath’s rifled opener for Boro, all inside the opening seven minutes.
Joel Piroe’s penalty, conceded by Boro substitute Matt Clarke within a minute of his introduction, put the hosts in command but Latte Lath’s header gave the visitors a lifeline just before half-time.
Anfernee Dijksteel’s dismissal for a second bookable offence hindered Boro’s hopes of a fightback although they almost rescued a point when substitute Samuel Silvera’s deflected strike hit the post.
Leeds remain third, seven points behind second-placed Ipswich, who also won on Saturday, while Boro, who conceded three goals for a third consecutive away game, slip to 12th but are still just three points off the top six.
Both sides went for the jugular from the get-go in a madcap opening few minutes that featured three goals and might have yielded twice as many.
Latte Lath got the scoring under way when he cut inside Archie Gray and drilled an emphatic finish into the roof of the net, past a surprised Illan Meslier.
Leeds’ response was swift as James had a dinked effort cleared off the line and Boro keeper Seny Dieng saved a Georginio Rutter shot with his legs, before two quickfire goals turned the game on its head.
James made up five inches to rise above Paddy McNair to nod in Sam Byram’s cross and Summerville grew a similar amount to beat Dijksteel to Gray’s deflected centre moments later.
Latte Lath wasted chances to bring Boro level, firing over from eight yards and being thwarted by a smart Meslier save after Daniel Barlaser’s through ball.
At the other end, Dieng saved well from Rutter one-on-one but was beaten by Piroe from the spot after a grounded Clarke, replacing the injured McNair, tripped up Rutter with his first real involvement.
Ivory Coast striker Latte Lath then nodded another decent opportunity wide before making amends with a glancing header from Barlaser’s near-post corner to halve the deficit.
The second half was less frantic but Dieng produced more heroics to deny Rutter and Summerville before Dijksteel, cautioned in the first half for clipping Summerville, saw red for a careless lunge on James.
Leeds sought a fourth goal to seal the points but almost came undone on the break when Silvera hit the woodwork and Morgan Rogers’ goal-bound follow-up was superbly blocked by Joe Rodon.
Leeds boss Daniel Farke told BBC Radio Leeds:
“I expected a tough game for us and I couldn’t be happier. I’m proud of the boys because it was our third game in eight days against a really good side.
“I judge Middlesbrough as being one of the main competitors for the top six so it was important to be brave and press with intensity, otherwise you will get punished.
“We created so many good situations and the goals were a sign of how desperate we were today. In terms of how desperate we wanted to win this game, it was top class in the first half.
“Probably every football fan must have enjoyed this game. I am a football fan myself, so I loved what we did, but as a manager I liked the second half, when we calmed everything down and had everything under control.
“It was a priceless three points against a very good opponent.”
Middlesbrough head coach Michael Carrick told BBC Radio Tees:
“The game had a bit of all sorts. There was a lot of good attacking play on the pitch, both teams looks dangerous at times and I felt we gave as good as we got.
“It was a largely new back four and we were tested today, but the boys stuck at it unbelievably well against a really good team and looked really dangerous.
“The changing room is quiet and really disappointed that we haven’t got anything from the game, and in some ways we feel we could have won it.
“They have had a number of chances but I thought we had chances at big times in the game, but [being down to] 10 men flips that a little bit and we still had a big shout for a penalty and hit the post. I’m hugely proud of the players for their effort.”
- 20JamesBooked at 45minsSubstituted forGnontoat 82′minutes
- 7PiroeSubstituted forGruevat 90+3′minutes
- 10SummervilleSubstituted forAnthonyat 90+4′minutes
- 24RutterBooked at 41minsSubstituted forBamfordat 82′minutes
- 15DijksteelBooked at 62mins
- 3van den Berg
- 17McNairSubstituted forClarkeat 36′minutesBooked at 37mins
- 24BanguraSubstituted forEngelat 82′minutes
- 16HowsonBooked at 37mins
- 4BarlaserSubstituted forGilbertat 83′minutes
- 11JonesBooked at 54mins
- 25CrooksBooked at 67minsSubstituted forSilveraat 72′minutes
- 10RogersBooked at 83mins
- 9Latte LathSubstituted forCoburnat 72′minutes
- Darren England
Match ends, Leeds United 3, Middlesbrough 2.
Second Half ends, Leeds United 3, Middlesbrough 2.
Substitution, Leeds United. Jaidon Anthony replaces Crysencio Summerville.
Substitution, Leeds United. Ilia Gruev replaces Joël Piroe.
Attempt saved. Joël Piroe (Leeds United) right footed shot from very close range is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt saved. Patrick Bamford (Leeds United) header from the left side of the six yard box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Wilfried Gnonto with a cross.
Corner, Leeds United. Conceded by Matt Clarke.
Attempt blocked. Crysencio Summerville (Leeds United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Hand ball by Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough).
Morgan Rogers (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card.
Archie Gray (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alex Gilbert (Middlesbrough).
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Alex Gilbert replaces Daniel Barlaser.
Substitution, Middlesbrough. Lukas Engel replaces Alex Bangura.
Substitution, Leeds United. Patrick Bamford replaces Georginio Rutter.
Substitution, Leeds United. Wilfried Gnonto replaces Daniel James.
Foul by Crysencio Summerville (Leeds United).
Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Glen Kamara (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Alex Bangura (Middlesbrough).