Leeds kept their automatic promotion hopes alive as Patrick Bamford scored twice in a 2-0 victory over 10-man Preston at Deepdale on Tuesday night.
A scrappy, uneventful first half made way for a vastly-improved second, with the hosts almost immediately disadvantaged when last man Ben Pearson was sent off (49) for bringing down Bamford as the striker looked to be through on goal.
Despite recent frustration in front of goal, Bamford eventually gave Leeds the lead with a stunning left-footed strike (62), before following that up by guiding home Mateusz Klich's cute cross to double the advantage (76).
Preston: Rudd (5), Fisher (5), Storey (5), Davies (6), Earl (5), Johnson (5), Pearson (5), Nmecha (6), Browne (5), Robinson (4), Maguire (4)
Subs: Moult (4), Ledson (n/a), Stockley (n/a)
Leeds: Casilla (5), Ayling (6), Jansson (6), Cooper (6), Alioski (5), Phillips (6), Roberts (6), Klich (7), Hernandez (7), Harrison (6), Bamford (8)
Subs: Berardi (n/a), Forshaw (n/a), Roofe (n/a)
Man of the match: Patrick Bamford
Defeat for Alex Neil's men leaves them six points off the top six with five games remaining, while Leeds leapfrog closest rivals Sheffield United into second, with the Blades not in action until Wednesday evening.
Having lost their place in the top two after a 1-0 defeat to Birmingham at the weekend, the relatively-short trip west carried great significance for Leeds as they looked to regain a footing in the race for automatic promotion.
But although they managed to get themselves on top in a first half in which both sides displayed plenty of industry and endeavour, there was a distinct lack of quality in the final third, with Klich, Pablo Hernandez and Bamford all missing half-chances.
Preston's Lukas Nmecha fired into the side-netting from an angle and Daniel Johnson's free-kick forced Kiko Casilla into an acrobatic punch clear, but it was their robust defensive work that perhaps impressed the most.
The face of the game changed just four minutes after the break. As Bamford raced onto a long ball forward, already-booked Pearson bundled Bamford to the deck and received his third red card of the season as a result.
Alex Neil made one change to the side that lost 1-0 to Sheffield United at the weekend, with Daniel Johnson replacing the injured Paul Gallagher. Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, meanwhile, named the same side that lost to Birmingham on Saturday.
Leeds subsequently increased the pressure on their opponents' back line and took a deserved lead when Bamford benefited from Alan Browne's hashed clearance to fire an excellent strike beyond the helpless Declan Rudd.
The hosts offered little in retaliation and fell further behind with 14 minutes to play when Klich eased into the 18-yard box and picked out the former Chelsea striker, who planted a simple header into the back of the net to make sure of victory.
Man of the match - Patrick Bamford
Overcoming adversity to score two brilliant goals in an important Leeds victory, the former Chelsea striker will now be hoping he can reproduce such form in the five games that remain, with the returning Kemar Roofe eager to challenge him for the starting spot in attack.
Alex Neil: "I thought we matched them tonight and then the sending off has changed the game. They are not a team that you want to play against with 10 men and it was always going to be a very difficult game from that point.
"The sending-off really put us on the back foot and we had to sit back. Leeds are not easy to stop, they are probably the hardest team in the league to stop and I think we found a way to do that up until the crucial error that determined the game."
Marcelo Bielsa: "I thought Patrick Bamford adapted very well after one very difficult game. He didn't play well against Millwall, against Birmingham he increased his level and performance. Having three chances is something positive for a striker. He improved his performance again today with two goals and he put in a lot of work for the team.
"It was a very difficult game against a tough physical team. In the first half we imposed ourselves. In the second half, after the red card, we solved the game more easily. I'm proud of the performance of the team because all the players played at a high level."
Preston face another tough test when they take on West Brom at The Hawthorns at 3pm on Saturday afternoon, while Leeds host Sheffield Wednesday in a Yorkshire derby at Elland Road, which is live on Sky Sports Football from 5.15pm; Kick off is 5.30pm.