MONDAY’S 4-1 triumph at Preston North End saw Leeds United surpass the flying start to the season they made in 2010-11.
Three more points at Deepdale took Garry Monk’s men to 41 from 23 games, better than the 39 achieved at this stage of the season in December 2011.
Back then, a 2-2 Boxing Day draw at Leicester City had halted United’s three-game winning run and a mid-week home clash with Steve Cotterill’s Portsmouth gave Simon Grayson’s Whites an opportunity to regain the habit of recording a three-point haul.
Winning ways would have been restored but for a 90th-minute own goal from Andy O’Brien – his second own goal of the game – as Pompey nicked a last-gasp 3-3 draw.
Victory would have taken Grayson’s Whites second and United got off to a flying start in front of 31,756 fans as Max Gradel fired the hosts into a seventh-minute lead.
Right-back Paul Connolly delivered a fine ball across the six-yard box and Gradel converted to bag his fifth goal in four games.
Rather like in Saturday’s remarkable win at Deepdale, United’s lead was then almost immediately doubled when Ross McCormack’s cross found skipper Jonny Howson who powered home a fierce effort to make it Leeds 2 Portsmouth 0 after only 10 minutes.
But mid-table Pompey refused to lie down and the visitors pulled a goal back in the 33rd minute when David Nugent finished in style from Richard Hughes’ cross.
Five years on, Nugent is being linked with a move to Elland Road in January.
Leeds then upped the ante further at the start of the second half and Pompey goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown pulled off a superb save to deny Robert Snodgrass shortly after the hour.
But after Ashdown had tipped Gradel’s header behind for a corner, there was no denying Leeds their third goal in the 62nd minute when a Snodgrass delivery was blasted home by Bradley Johnson.
Leeds looked destined to end 2010 with a fourth win in five games and move into the automatic promotion spots.
But Portsmouth hit back within 60 seconds when substitute Nwankwo Kanu fed Hughes whose shot defected off O’Brien to beat Kasper Schmeichel.
United were not yet home and hosed and Luciano Becchio and Snodgrass both went close before referee David Webb ignored Whites claims for a 78th-minute penalty when Ibrahima Sonko barged into Snodgrass.
The Scot then dragged a fine opportunity wide as Leeds dominated.
Yet 2010 was to end with a major sting in the tail – and even after Schmeichel had kept out Hughes with a brilliant save in the 87th minute.
Six minutes later, in the third minute of added time, Nadir Ciftci’s cross bamboozled O’Brien whose touch turned the ball behind Schmeichel to give Pompey the latest of equalisers.
As three points became one, Leeds dropped from second to fourth in the blink of an eye – level on points with second-placed Cardiff and third-placed Swansea City – who featured a certain Garry Monk in their ranks.
Five years on, Monk’s Leeds side would continue to better 2011 with even a point at Aston Villa on Thursday night.
Leeds United 3
(Gradel 7, Howson 10, Johnson 62)
Portsmouth 3 (Nugent 33, O’Brien og 63, og 90)
championship tuesday, december 28, 2010
Leeds: Schmeichel, Connolly, Collins, O’Brien, McCartney, Snodgrass, Howson, Johnson, Gradel (Sam 80), McCormack, Paynter (Becchio 65). Subs not used: Higgs, Bruce, Kilkenny, Hughes, Somma.
Portsmouth: Ashdown; Halford, Mokoena, Rocha (Sonko 60), Dickinson; Ward (Kanu 59), Hughes, Mullins; Nugent, Kitson, Utaka. Subs not used: Flahavan, Hreidarsson. Booked: Mokoena, Kitson.
Referee: David Webb (Co Durham).