Preston North End 0 Leeds United 2: Patrick Bamford's deadly double fires Whites back into second
LEEDS UNITED moved back into the Championship's automatic promotion places and piled the pressure on Sheffield United as Patrick Bamford's brace downed ten-men Preston North End 2-0 at Deepdale.
Preston were reduced to ten men four minutes after the break when Ben Pearson - who had already been booked - took down Bamford for a professional foul with the striker through on goal.
Bamford then broke the deadlock in stunning fashion when the forward unleashed an unstoppable drive into the left corner from the edge of the box two minutes after the hour.
But Bamford was not done and the Whites striker then doubled his and United's tally when heading home a perfect cross from Mateusz Klich in the 76th minute.
With five games remaining, the victory put Leeds back into second and two points ahead of Sheffield United who head to Birmingham City for their game in hand on Wednesday night.
Leeds attacked from the off and Tyler Roberts saw a low shot from the left wing saved by Declan Rudd after just ten seconds.
Roberts was then denied again in the tenth minute when his effort from a Pablo Hernandez cross was blocked in a packed penalty area.
Preston's first chance arrived in the 13th minute but Lukas Nmecha could only hit the side netting from a tight angle inside the box following a good knockdown from Alan Browne.
But Leeds were continually threatening and Gjanni Alioski volleyed wide before Patrick Bamford was inches away from finishing a fine flowing move which ended with the striker firing just over the crossbar from the edge of the box.
From another good move, Pablo Hernandez then fired over from the edge of the area on the half hour mark before Mateusz Klich was inches away from converting a low drive which whistled past the right hand post.
Roberts then fired another effort from the area straight at Rudd with Preston only offering a threat from deliveries from free-kicks and corners.
A ball through Ben Pearson's legs then offered a break forward in numbers but Luke Ayling saw his shot deflected wide with Hernandez's effort blocked and cleared from the corner.
Hernandez then tested Rudd with another effort from the edge of the area two minutes before the break but Rudd quickly moved his feet to make a comfortable save.
Another attempt from Bamford was then deflected wide before Preston survived something of a scramble from a free-kick in first half added stoppage time.
Leeds had been dominant and Preston's task was then made even harder five minutes after the break when Pearson was shown a straight-red card for hauling down Bamford who raced clear on goal to a long ball over the top.
Kalvin Phillips curled the subsequent free-kick agonisingly over the crossbar and the red card led to wave after wave of Leeds attack.
Roberts saw a powerful effort from an Ayling pull-back blocked before Rudd spilled a Roberts cross and gathered at the second attempt.
Bamford then saw a strong drive from another attack beaten away by Rudd but there was simply no denying the Whites striker's rocket of a shot two minutes after the hour.
Preston again gave the ball away and this time there was absolutely nothing Rudd could do about Bamford's piledriver from the edge of the area that flew into the left corner in front of an ecstatic away end.
Leeds were rampant and only the post then denied United a second as Luke Ayling's shot from inside the box smashed the frame of the goal and flew behind for a goal kick.
Leeds continued to create chances with Harrison firing wide but a second goal looked inevitable and it arrived in the 76th minute when Bamford doubled his tally by heading a precise cross from Klich into the opposite corner.
For Preston, there was no way back and Bamford squandered a glorious chance for a hat-trick when again breaking clear in the 89th minute only to delay his shot and allow Ben Davies to tackle him and Rudd to smother.
Preston then went close to netting a consolation through Jayden Stockley in the sixth minute of added time but the contest had long since been over and it's over to you Sheffield United or moreover former head coach Garry Monk and Birmingham City.
Leeds United: Casilla, Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Alioski, Phillips, Klich, Roberts (Forshaw 73), Harrison, Hernandez (Berardi 78), Bamford (Roofe 90). Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Dallas, Shackleton, Stevens.
Preston North End: Rudd, Fisher, Storey, Davies, Earl, Pearson, Nmecha (Stockley 87), Browne, Johnson, Robinson (Moult 57), Maguire (Ledson 70). Subs not used: Crowe, Rafferty, Huntington, Ginnelly.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).