LEEDS United were able to breathe a mathematical sigh of relief after Saturday’s 3-2 success against Reading.
Championship survival had long looked pretty much certain such is the desperate plight of third-bottom MK Dons, but the Royals win nevertheless made it mathematically impossible for United to finish in the drop zone.
Simon Grayson’s Whites were involved in matters at the other end of the table in League One in 2010, when a 3-2 defeat at Gillingham on Saturday, April 17 did little to alleviate the pressure situation concerning crucial promotion to the second tier.
Gillingham were battling at the other end of the League One table and faced a resurgent Leeds side that had won their last three games after four successive defeats looked to be derailing their automatic promotion push.
It meant United were sat second approaching their trip to the Priestfield – with just four games remaining – but 33 minutes of madness brought the promotion jitters flooding back to the Whites.
United lined up with Shane Higgs in goal, ahead of Richard Naylor, Leigh Bromby, Neil Collins, Michael Doyle, Neil Kilkenny, Andy Hughes, Robert Snodgrass, Luciano Becchio and Max Gradel.
Jermaine Beckford was among the substitutes but by the time he was introduced Leeds were 3-1 down.
There were just eight minutes on the clock when Adam Miller headed home Gillingham’s opener and the same player then turned provider to set Mark Bentley home to nod home a second soon after. With just half an hour gone, United were 2-0 down.
But memories of the recent four consecutive defeats came well and truly flooding back when Naylor headed into his own net just three minutes later.
There was bedlam in the away end with United’s fans furious with what they were witnessing at the Priestfield but Becchio gave United hope of a comeback when scoring from close range on the stroke of half-time. Beckford was then introduced as part of a double change with Ben Parker for Hughes and Snodgrass as Leeds pushed for a second but the relegation-battling hosts held firm.
Eventually, United set up a grandstand finish when Beckford was fouled in the area by Bentley with three minutes left.
The striker dusted himself down to convert from 12 yards but the Gills held on for a victory that put them three points clear of the relegation zone though the Kent side were ultimately relegated on goal difference.
United, meanwhile, faced a nervy check of the full time scores which still kept them in the second automatic promotion spot, behind Norwich who were promoted that day with victory at fifth-placed Charlton who would have gone level with Leeds with a win.
Instead, they remained three points adrift with Millwall now one point behind Leeds in third and a further point back to Swindon who blew a chance to go level with the Whites when drawing with Walsall.
Just three points separated the four teams vying for second with three games to go.
It was certainly squeaky bum time but thankfully – after subsequent victories against MK Dons and Bristol Rovers – this dramatic Whites tale had a dream conclusion.
(Miller 8, Bentley 30, Naylor (og) 33)
Leeds United 2 (Becchio 45, Beckford (pen) 87)
League one, Saturday, April 17 2010
Leeds United: Higgs, Naylor, Bromby, Collins, Doyle, Kilkenny, Howson, Hughes (Parker 55), Gradel, Becchio (Watt 77), Snodgrass (Beckford 55).Subs not used: Ankergren, Lowry, McSheffrey, Beckford, Grella.
Gillingham: Julian, Nutter, Jackman, Dennehy, Fuller (Payne 4), Bentley, Miller, Weston (Jackson 72), Barcham, Oli, Howe. Subs not used: Royce, Essam, Wynter, Maher, Dickson.
Referee: Andrew Wiley.