Leeds United's under-23s side fell to only their second league defeat of the season as Crewe Alexandra handed Carlos Corberan's men a 3-1 defeat at Alexandra Park on Monday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa, who was in attendance in Cheshire, made a number of first team players available for the trip as Samuel Saiz, Jamal Blackman, Jack Harrison, Lewis Baker and Tyler Roberts were named in a strong starting eleven for the Whites.
Crewe had the better of the chances in the opening stages as Luke Offord attempted a speculative effort from the halfway line which caught Blackman by surprise but the ball flew just over the crossbar.
United dominated possession but were frustrated in front of goal and it was the hosts again who worked the Leeds goalkeeper as he produced a string of great saves with Alex searching to break the deadlock.
The Leeds resistance was finally broken after half an hour as Baker was caught in possession at the back with the midfielder appealing for a foul which referee Lewis Smith waved away leaving Malachi Linton to fire into the bottom corner.
Leeds responded as Harrison, who was creating the majority of United's chances, flashed a cross in front of goal but United failed to really test David Richards in the Crewe goal.
The lead was almost doubled as Kevin O'Connor drilled a low shot at Blackman through a crowded penalty area but again he was quick to get down low to palm the effort away to keep Corberan's men one behind at the break.
Crewe began the second half on the front foot once again and it took just six minutes to double their advantage.
Nicholls drove into the Leeds half and made his way unchallenged to the edge of the box before firing into the top corner with Blackman unable to keep it at bay despite a graze of the fingertips.
Crewe then added a third just minutes later following a brilliant individual effort from centre-back Eddie Nolan which saw him turn his man inside out in the area before firing into the top corner.
Leeds grabbed one back through a Jack Clarke header with five minutes to go following a lovely ball from Jordan Stevens but it wasn't enough to save United from defeat as Crewe ran out deserved winners and handed Corberan his first defeat in league action since late September.
Leeds United under-23s: Blackman, Gotts, Oduor, McCalmont, Davis, Shaughnessy, Stevens, Baker, Roberts, Saiz, Harrison. Subs: Miazek, Dalby, Clarke, Shackleton, Diaz.