Leeds began brightly with Samu Saiz immediately pulling the strings on his return to the no 10 role.
After Forest’s Joe Worrall gave the ball away, Pablo Hernandez cut inside from the left flank but saw his low shot easily saved by Jordan Smith in the third minute.
Forest gradually began to threaten and only a superb sliding tackle by Liam Cooper prevented Ben Brereton from having a simple one-on-one situation against Felix Wiedwald.
But United then began to pile on the pressure and Forest somehow survived in the 14th minute when a Pontus Jansson header from a Pablo Hernandez corner was blocked on the line before Kemar Roofe twice narrowly failed to net the rebound.
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Roofe then saw another attempt diverted just wide shortly afterwards before Jansson put another header wide from another Hernandez corner.
But after Forest’s Barrie McKay had narrowly failed to get a shot in from a cross to the far post, United lost Luke Ayling to injury despite the full back initially attempting to play on as Forest’s Kieran Dowell put a good chance wide.
Vurnon Anita came on at left back as Gaetano Berardi moved to right back and the injury disrupted the flow of the game with United’s next chance not arriving until the 40th minute when Jansson narrowly failed to connect to a Hernandez free-kick.
Jansson was then booked for a late tackle on the left touchline shortly before the break.
Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen opted to bring on Pierre-Michel Lasogga for Gjanni Alioiski during the interval as Roofe switched to the right wing and Roofe’s cross from the byline was gathered by Smith shortly after the restart.
Kalvin Phillips then fired a decent attempt just over from 25 yards before Forest were saved by the crossbar in the 56th minute after sensational play by Saiz.
The Spaniard brilliantly turned his man on the half way line and ran all the way to the edge of Forest’s box before laying on a precise pass for Roofe who smashed a thunderous effort which crashed against the bar and flew to safety.
Roofe then fired over when well placed with options in front of him shortly after before Forest enjoyed a decent spell during which Ben Osborn’s fierce shot was blocked by Cooper.
From a corner, Wiedwald then did brilliantly to tip a deflected long-range effort from Osborn over the bar and the German then beat away a strong effort from Kieran Dowell for a corner.
Leeds then went close when Smith saved Jansson’s header from a Hernandez corner.
Saiz fired wide shortly afterwards before Lasogga blazed over and the introduction of Hadi Sacko for Roofe with ten minutes left was Christiansen’s last throw of the dice.
Four minutes later, United squandered a golden chance when majestic play from Saiz presented a fine chance for Hernandez whose shot from inside the box was blocked by Smith.
Another brilliant chance then went begging three minutes later when Sacko’s cross to the far post found Lasogga but there was not enough power in the German’s header and Smith saved.
United were then given six minutes of added time to find a winner but Lasogga burst into the area and saw his low shot saved before Hernandez sliced a low effort wide.
Leeds United: Wiedwald, Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Berardi, Phillips, O’Kane, Saiz, Hernandez, Alioski (Lasogga 45), Roofe (Sacko 80). Subs not used: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Anita, Klich, Cibicki.
Nottingham Forest: Smith; Lichaj, Mancienne, Worrall, Traore; Bridcutt, Cash; McKay (Carayol 75), Dowell, Osborn; Brereton (Walker 59). Subs not used: Henderson, Fox, Clough, Vaughan, Bouchalakis.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.