LEEDS United moved back into the Championship’s top half after Tuesday night’s entertaining 2-2 draw with high-flying Derby County at Elland Road.
The game was in danger of becoming a side show amid chairman Massimo Cellino initially banning the Sky cameras amid a bitter dispute between United and the Football League over fixture disruption caused by television scheduling.
But Elland Road was treated to a decent game with Jeff Hendrick dancing through a soft Leeds defence to give Derby a 13th-minute lead before a returning Sol Bamba levelled three minutes before half-time after a goalkeeping mess from County’s Lee Grant.
Chris Wood then headed home a delicious Sam Byram cross to put United ahead but Derby sub Tom Ince levelled within three minutes of coming on to give his side a point.
The point lifted Leeds to 12th but Ipswich Town’s victory at Brighton has left the Whites nine points off the play-offs.
Whites head coach Steve Evans made two changes to his starting line up with Lewis Cook dropping to the bench as Tom Adeyemi replaced him in midfield.
Captain Sol Bamba also returned at centre-back in place of Giuseppe Bellusci whose horlicks gifted Nottingham Forest a goal in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the City Ground.
But while a Derby win would have taken them top of the pile, a Whites victory could have taken United as high as tenth and only four points off the play-offs.
After an early spell of Derby possession it was Leeds who won the game’s first corner but Luke Murphy’s delivery was cleared.
Sam Byram then fired over from range as part of a very quiet opening ten minutes.
But Derby were gradually building a decent spell of possession and clinically struck with their very first chance after 13 minutes.
Jeff Hendrick was found just inside the Leeds area but there appeared to be little danger until he danced his way past Liam Bridcutt and Sol Bamba to carve out an opening which he cashed in on by clipping the ball over a helpless Marco Silvestri.
The goal seemed to stun the Whites who offered little immediate response but a decent move after 22 minutes offered hope with Bridcutt feeding Sam Byram whose decent cross was headed over by Adeyemi.
United’s second corner was then easily cleared with Byram hauling down Andreas Weinmann as the Rams attempted to counter and booked for his troubles.
Bridcutt then followed Byram into Mark Heywood’s notebook for his hardly reckless sliding tackle on Jacob Butterfield just two minutes later.
And a card happy Heywood then added Luke Murphy’s name to his collection for what looked like another soft foul on Stephen Warnock.
And after huge sarcastic cheers when Leeds were finally awarded a free-kick, Rams boss Paul Clement was forced into his first change as a presumably injured Jason Shackell was replaced by Ryan Shotton nine minutes before the break.
An drab half was quickly heading towards the interval with United still only offering limited threat as another Byram cross was headed wide by Adeyemi.
But after Derby goalscorer Hendrick was booked after taking out Adeyemi, Leeds hauled themselves level after a goalkeeping faux pas from Derby custodian Grant three minutes before the break.
The shotstopper came racing out of his goal in a bid to claim a free-kick but totally missed the ball leaving Leeds with an open goal and just defenders to beat.
Byram’s initial effort was blocked but Stuart Dallas was quick to the rebound and his floated ball looped over a scrambling Grant to find Bamba who slotted home to the delight of Elland Road.
After wild celebrations, Derby threatened an immediate comeback from a corner which ended with Johnny Russell curling a 20-yard effort over.
Leeds then threatened another opening through Chris Wood who was muscled out of contention but the half ended with smart goalkeeping from Marco Silvestri who rushed out of his goal to smother at the feet of Andreas Weinmann who otherwise had a tap in.
There was one unusual change during the interval with fourth official Richard Clark replacing man in the middle Heywood due to injury, no doubt much to the delight of the home faithful.
Derby began on the front foot with Bradley Johnson smashing a wild effort into the South Stand from 18 yards.
After a quiet next ten minutes, Derby then threatened as Darren Bent almost escaped Liam Cooper before Wootton turned Jacob Butterfield’s low cross behind for a corner which was cleared.
At the other end, a long range Dallas effort was well held before Dallas raced away and was scythed down by Cyrus Christie who became the fifth player to earn a yellow card.
And after Bent’s shot was deflected behind for a corner, two notable substitutions were then made just after the hour with Derby’s Chris Martin replacing an ineffective Bent with Cook replacing Adeyemi for the Whites.
And after a ten-minute spell where nothing seemed to click, Derby went close on the 70-minute mark with Wootton making a crucial block to deny a dangerous Weinmann shot that was goal bound.
And that block proved all the more crucial just one minute later as Leeds suddenly broke and from nothing made it 2-1.
Man of the moment Byram picked up the ball on the right flank and delivered a gem of a cross for Wood who evaded his marker before firing a simple header past the helpless Grant.
With his good deed done, Wood was then withdrawn for Souleymane Doukara two minutes later with Derby making their final change as Tom Ince replaced Weinmann.
And Ince made an immediate impression by making it 2-2 within three minutes of coming on as Derby’s Russell fed the midfielder who applied a cool finish into Silvestri’s bottom left corner.
Within seconds, Derby were then nearly ahead as only a point-blank save from Silvestri kept the scores level.
As the Rams continued to pur forward, Hendrick’s shot was then deflected narrowly over but Leeds then applied serious pressure of their own with two dangerous free-kicks, the second of which forced Grant into tipping Murphy’s low curler just wide for a corner which led to Cook blasting just over.
Kalvin Phillips then replaced Byram with one minute left plus three minutes added injury time.
But despite a scary moment amid hair-raising defending from Bamba there was to be no winning goal as Leeds and Derby left with a point apiece.
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bamba, Cooper, Taylor, Byram (Phillips 89), Adeyemi (Cook 63), Bridcutt, Murphy, Dallas, Wood (Doukara 75). Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Bellusci, Antenucci.
Derby: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Shackell (Shotton 35), Warnock; Hendrick, Johnson, Butterfield; Russell, Bent (Martin 63), Weimann (Ince 75). Subs not used: Mitchell, Baird, Hanson, Thorne.
Referee: Mark Heywood (Richard Clark 45).