JAMES Vaughan scored in the dying moments of a dramatic West Yorkshire derby to hand Huddersfield Town a 2-1 win over Leeds United.
The striker’s late finish settled a lively encounter at Elland Road and inflicted potentially fatal damage on Leeds’ faltering bid to reach the Championship play-offs.
United had recovered from Neil Danns’s opener to level through Aidan White but Vaughan’s goal left them with no time to hit back again.
United had the better of the opening exchanges and Luke Varney saw a header hacked against the crossbar but James Vaughan rattled the frame of the goal at the other end of the field as Town fought back.
The visitors survived an immediate scare when Varney met Stephen Warnock’s fourth-minute corner and forced Peter Clarke to drive his header against the underside of the bar.
Sam Byram attempted to bury the rebound but saw his follow-up blocked.
The derby was typically feisty and Habib Habibou - making his full debut for Leeds - picked up the game’s first booking for a cynical foul on Paul Dixon after only six minutes, but United went close again as Alex Smithies reacted brilliantly to turn behind a low effort from El-Hadji Diouf.
Varney was more wayward with another good chance from close range, slicing the ball high into the crowd, and Huddersfield took time to create any opportunities of their own as Vaughan toiled alone up front.
They finally threatened when ex-Leeds academy player Danny Ward crossed from the left wing and picked out Vaughan who smashed a free header against the bar from point-blank range.
Ward then went close with a deflected shot as Huddersfield grew in confidence and Paddy Kenny produced a fine save to deny the midfielder in injury-time as the clash remained finely balanced at the break.
The second half took time to reproduce the intensity of the first but Huddersfield snatched the lead on 55 minutes amid poor defending from their hosts.
Vaughan reacted first to his own blocked shot to head the ball into space inside United’s box, and Danns crashed home an acrobatic volley to put Town in front.
Leeds manager Neil Warnock reacted quickly by withdrawing the ineffective Habib Habibou and Paul Green and introducing White and Ryan Hall, and White equalised as Jack Hunt failed to cut out a long ball from Tom Lees.
The game became end-to-end after that as both sides pushed for a winner and Paddy Kenny maintained parity by pushing away Danny Ward’s volley. Leeds, meanwhile, had a penalty claim turned down when Peter Clarke bundled into Luke Varney 12 yards from goal.
Sam Byram headed an El-Hadji Diouf corner wide from a good position and Austin was desperately unlucky to see a fierce volley smash against the crossbar, hit the back of Town goalkeeper Alex Smithies and rolled to safety.
And Town stunned Elland Road three minutes from time when Vaughan ran onto Jack Hunt’s through ball and curled a close-range finish around Kenny.
Leeds United: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Peltier, Warnock, Green, Tonge, Austin, Diouf, Varney, Habibou. Subs: Ashdown, Pearce, White, Brown, Norris, Hall, Dawson.
Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Dixon, Gerrard, P Clarke, Hunt, Gobern, Norwood, Ward, Clayton, Danns, Vaughan. Subs: Bennett, Woods, Scannell, Novak, Wallace, Robinson, Beckford.