Brian McDermott saw his Leeds United restore some lost pride but still end up on the losing side against Championship leaders Leicester City.
Following an embarrassing FA Cup defeat at Rochdale and a 6-0 drubbing at Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday last week, Leeds responded with a barnstorming start.
Ross McCormack headed against the post and could have scored two more in the first period, while defender Tom Lees headed over with the goal at his mercy.
But Leicester, for whom Jamie Vardy also hit the post with a sweetly-struck shot in the first period, refused to buckle under the early pressure and served several warnings of their own.
David Nugent pinched victory with a late strike.
“That was tough to take,” said McDermott. “We should have been three-up at half-time.
“We thought Nugent was lucky to be still on the pitch actually after kicking out at (Leeds defender Jason) Pearce in the first half, but there you go.”
McDermott said Leicester were the blueprint of what it took to win promotion from the Championship and that he would be looking to emulate them.
“The most important thing for me, obviously you want to win, it’s so important to win games, and I’m used to winning games in this league, was to restore pride in that shirt and I think the players did that.”
McDermott said it was imperative for the club’s pending takeover by Sport Capital - a consortium led by the club’s current managing director David Haigh and Andrew Flowers, the managing director of their main sponsors, Enterprise Insurance - was completed.
“I would say it is the number one priority to get that over the line,” McDermott added.
“That’s the most important thing. The people who are coming in to take charge of this club are spot on for it.
“The only things they think of are for the good of Leeds United.”
Leicester boss Nigel Pearson believes new signing Kevin Phillips will have a big impact on his side’s bid to reach the Barclays Premier League for the first time in 10 years.
Phillips, 40, marked his Leicester debut after signing until the end of the season this week by stepping off the bench in the second half to help set up Nugent’s late winner.
Leicester secured a sixth straight league win for the first time in 21 years and extended their lead at the top of the table to seven points in the Sky Bet Championship’s early televised kick-off, with their rivals hoping to close the gap later on Saturday afternoon.
Phillips played a key role in his new side’s 87th-minute winner as he deftly stepped over defender Liam Moore’s cross into the box to let the ball run through for Nugent, who duly stabbed the ball home.
Pearson said: “He has a presence and a reputation, for somebody who’s the age he is, to be able to get into a game as quickly as he did.
“It’s testament to how he’s looked after himself and it’s not just the physical side of it, when you get older, to still have that desire and that hunger to play is quite remarkable.
“There won’t be too many players of his ilk and I’m delighted that we’ve got him.
“He showed an awful lot of intelligence out there. Hopefully that will be important for us in the second half of the season.”
Nugent’s late strike was tough on Leeds, who slipped to a fourth straight league defeat.
“We made a lot of mistakes, let’s be clear on this, it was probably a bit hard on Leeds,” Pearson added.
“It depends on how you want to look at it. Some people could argue we were a bit fortunate, or from our perspective we would say that, on a day that it wasn’t a polished performance, we showed different qualities and were able to get ourselves out of tricky situations.”