ALEX MOWATT’S 25-yard thunderbolt finally gave Leeds United a home victory as bogey team Cardiff City of all people were sunk 1-0 at Elland Road.
An even contest was waiting to be won by a moment of magic and the recalled Mowatt provided it with an absolute corker that flew into the top corner after 63 minutes and sent the Whites faithful wild.
The victory lifted Leeds up to 17th and now six points clear of the dropzone ahead of Saturday’s visit to Huddersfield Town.
United were looking to banish the memory of Thursday night’s dreadful 2-0 loss at home to Blackburn in which they went 1-0 down after just 17 seconds and 2-0 down after six minutes.
That defeat made it 12 games at Elland Road without a victory and six matches with no win at all with Cardiff not beaten by Leeds in their last 17 meetings - the last Whites win coming way back in 1984.
Whites head coach Steve Evans made three changes to his starting line up with Giuseppe Bellusci replacing suspended captain Sol Bamba at centre back with Alex Mowatt coming in for the ineligible Tom Adeyemi in midfield.
Scott Woottton also replaced Sam Byram at right back as Bryam dropped to the bench.
But after a very even first five minutes Leeds received an early let off when Scott Malone was afforded acres of space down the left flank. The wide man burst to the edge of United’s box before fizzing in a low cross across goal but Cardiff’s inrushing fowards could not get the touch needed to bag what would have been a certain goal.
Leeds then immediately broke down the other end and Mirco Antenucci saw his claims for a penalty waved away after a tangle with Lee Peltier.
After a tight next five minutes, a wonderful raking pass from Luke Murphy picked out Alex Mowatt which had Cardiff scrambling to concede a corner which Murphy then wasted by sailing to ball out of play.
Stand in captain Liam Cooper was then lucky to avoid a booking after a 19th-minute foul and just one minute later Cardiff’s Peter Whittiingham picked up the game’s first caution but United wasted the free-kick.
And in truth very little action of note occurred from there on though Marco Silvestri angered Evans with a terrible clearance that he put straight into touch.
Leeds then created half a chance two minutes before the half hour mark after a neat build up between Mowatt and Dallas but Dallas fired his shot from range well wide of the target.
Berardi, Dallas and Antenucci then combined in a United break after 33 minutes but the attack ended with the Italian firing wide from an angle.
But Elland Road then rose with genuine hope five minutes later when a Dallas cross caused mayhem in the Cardiff area but Mowatt’s shot was blocked and danger was eventually desperately averted.
And just two minutes later Dallas produced a stinging shot from just outside the area which David Marshall did well to palm away for a corner which was cleared.
But Leeds continued on the offensive with Cook firing over from range and Chris Wood first seeing his shot blocked before heading wide a minute before the interval from Bellusci’s decent cross.
And half-time just seemed to come at bad time for the Whites with Cardiff beginning to cling on and having offered precious little aside from Malone’s dangerous early cross.
There were no changes during the interval and the second half began like the first with Malone attacking down the left flank but this time his fierce low cross was well saved by Silvestri.
At the other end, Antenucci was given half a chance as Wood headed on Silvestri’s long clearance but Marshall gathered at the second attempt.
But Cardiff then began to turn the screw and the second of two corners had Elland Road fearing the worst amidst a mad scramble but Silvestri eventually cleared.
Another quiet period followed before United went close when Wootton, Antenucci and Dallas all combined to set up Wood who was denied a tap in as Cardiff’s Sean Morrison cleared for a corner.
Cardiff boss Russell Slade reacted by bringing on Sammy Ameobi for Craig Noone and the game was essentially crying out for a moment of inspiration and boy did Mowatt provide it on 63 minutes.
The midfielder looked to have nothing on facing goal from about 25 yards but produced an absolutely stunning thunderbolt that sailed into the top corner giving Marshall no chance.
The strike sent a thirsty Elland Road into raptures with the crowd gasping in admiration as the midfielder’s blockbuster was played back on the big screen.
Slade then made his second change as striker Kenwyne Jones was introduced for Alex Revell and Cardiff immediately went close as Jones played in Mason whose shot was turned past the post by Silvestri.
The subsequent inswinging corner presented Morrison with a free header but one that was directed straight at Silvestri who was equal to the task.
Slade then made his third and final change as Anthony Pilkington came on for Peter Whittingham with United 13 minutes away from ending their horrible home hoodoo and Cardiff curse.
And after a sustained spell of pressure from Cardiff around United’s area a needless foul gave United chance to breathe as Evans introduced Byram for Dallas who left the field to huge applause with eight minutes left.
And just two minutes later Leeds should have bagged their second when a Cardiff mix up left Wood one on one of Marshall. The striker beat the ‘keeper at an angle and had only defenders to beat but curled his effort the wrong side of the post.
But Leeds were gradually running down the clock regardless with Mowatt leaving the field to a standing ovation when subbed for Kalvin Phillips with three minutes to go.
The announcement of four minutes’ injury time caused a mass panic, especially as Cardiff pressed forward, but Pilkington curled his effort over the bar to sighs of relief from Elland Road.
Suddenly two minutes of the four added had been played and Evans further wound the clock down by bringing on Souleymane Doukara for Antenucci with 90 seconds left.
And despite an extremely nervy last minute when the ball pinballed from end to end, United held on for that elusive victory with the full time whistle greeted by scenes of elation in the Elland Road crowd.
It’s been a while.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Wootton, Cooper, Bellusci, Berardi, Dallas (Byram 82), Murphy, Cook, Mowatt (Phillips 87), Antenucci, Wood. Subs: Horton, Sloth, Buckley, Botaka, Doukara.
Cardiff: Marshall, Peltier, Morrison, Connolly, Malone, Ralls, Gunnarsson, Whittingham (Pilkington 77), Noone (Ameobi 60), Revell (Jones 69), Mason. Subs not used: John, Tamas, Moore, O’Keefe.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire).