A MUCH-improved Leeds United bounced back from consecutive defeats as goals from Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez downed dangerous Championship visitors Bristol City 2-1 at Elland Road.
United created a glut of chances in an entertaining first-half and deservedly went 1-0 up when Chris Wood bagged his 22nd goal of the season from a quickly taken Hernandez free-kick.
Hernandez then doubled the Leeds advantage just two minutes after the break when his low shot took a wicked deflection off Aden Flint.
Leeds were then denied what looked like a blatant penalty when Flint handballed but City went on to create a host of chances themselves and Leeds were left grateful to a tremendous display from Rob Green who produced a string of fine saves.
Green was finally beaten in the sixth minute of second half stoppage time when Milan Djuric converted a corner but Leeds had already done enough for victory to open up a six-point cushion to the teams outside of the play-offs.
Leeds went mightily close to taking a second-minute lead when a stretching Kemar Roofe narrowly failed to head home a Hernandez cross from three yards out after fine work from Hadi Sacko.
But City hit straight back with a long-range free-kick from David Cotterill that Rob Green had to parry away to safety.
After a lovely flick from Chris Wood released Hernandez, Roofe then fired wide shortly before the tenth minute.
Roofe then returned the favour and fed Hernandez who blasted wide from 18 yards out and the same player then tested ‘keeper Fabian Giefer with a low drive after Mark Little conceded possession to Sacko in the 14th minute.
After some brief pressure from the Robins, the lively Roofe then blasted over from the edge of the box before the visiting side desperately scrambled away two Leeds corners.
The City goal was starting to lead a charmed life and Wood was the next to threaten with a firm low shot from the edge of the box that Giefer saved.
But the Robins were finally broken by a 27th-minute free-kick which Hernandez cleverly took quickly to release Wood through a napping City defence.
The striker then kept his composure to slot home a low finish past the onrushing Giefer to bag his 22nd goal of the season and give United a richly deserved 1-0 lead.
Lee Tomlin was booked for dissent and the Whites onslaught then continued with Ronaldo Vieira the latest to go close when firing just over though City then had home hearts in mouths down the other end when Cotterill’s deep cross was scrambled clear as Joe Bryan failed to convert.
City were then dealt a blow when top scorer Tammy Abraham went down injured and had to substituted for Matty Taylor eight minutes before the break.
City’s Cotterill was then booked for a sly kick on Vieira and Leeds should have gone 2-0 up soon after but Roofe tried to walk the ball into the net rather than shoot when well placed in the penalty box.
The winger was instead tackled and only a fantastic save down the other end by Green denied City an injury time equaliser after a brilliant ball from Cotterill released Taylor whose stinging shot was somehow kept at bay.
City then had an immediate chance after the restart when half-time substitute Djuric saw his low shot blocked by Gaetano Berardi after a scramble in the Leeds box.
But just one minute later United doubled their lead when, from nothing, a low shot from Hernandez took a wicked deflection off Flint, leaving Giefer with no chance and doubling the Leeds lead.
In fairness to City, the visitors refused to throw in the towel and Taylor fired a decent low shot at Green before Tomlin’s clever lob sailed narrowly over.
Then, on the hour mark, Green was forced to desperately claw away a close range header from Djuric before the Whites keeper brilliantly tipped a raking effort from Bryan wide for a corner which City made a mess of.
Whites head coach Garry Monk then took off Roofe for Mo Barrow who made an immediate impact by skinning Bailey Wright who was booked for clattering the winger to the ground.
Hernandez took the free-kick and Leeds were denied a stone wall penalty with Luke Ayling’s effort hitting Flint’s outstretched arm but referee Jeremy Simpson instead awarded United a corner.
City immediately countered down the other end and Vieira was booked for a sliding foul on Tomlin which led to a free-kick right on the edge of the box.
Green then produced another solid save to beat away the free-kick from Cotterill and Leeds should have then gone 3-0 up at the other end but a woeful first touch from Barrow kissed goodbye to a chance on a plate set up by Wood.
Green then saved Leeds yet again at the other end with a brilliant save to claw away a Djuric header.
Leeds survived and Kalvin Phillips was then brought on for O’Kane with 13 minutes left before Monk introduced Souleymane Doukara for Hernandez who left the field to a standing ovation.
Leeds then went close to adding a third when a free-kick from Phillips was curled just wide and over.
City then should have pulled a goal back in the second minute of stoppage time when Taylor rounded Green but fired wide.
Flint then thumped a volley against the crossbar and over before Green saved a Taylor shot with his legs to force a City corner in the sixth minute of added time.
Finally, City bagged the goal they deserved when Djuric eventually converted the corner but Leeds had already done more than enough for victory to get the promotion bid back on track as part of a very entertaining evening at Elland Road.
Leeds United: Green, Ayling, Jansson, Bartley, Berardi, O’Kane (Phillips 77), Vieira, Sacko, Roofe (Barrow 62), Hernandez (Doukara 83), Wood. Subs not used: Silvestri, Cooper, Pedraza, Dallas.
Bristol City: Giefer, Little (Djuric 45), Flint, Wright, Golbourne (O’Neil 86), Cotterill, Hegeler, Brownhill, Bryan, Abraham (Taylor 37), Tomlin. Subs not used: Fielding, Matthews, Pack, Paterson.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson.