Marcelo Bielsa insisted Leeds United had dominated enough of the game to win it after an equaliser from Kalvin Phillips in the 11th minute of injury-time snatched a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.
Phillips’ headed home his first goal of the season in the second-last of 12 added minutes as Leeds returned to the top of the Championship in remarkable fashion at The Riverside.
United were on the brink of a fifth defeat in seven league games when Phillips’ anticipated Liam Cooper’s knockdown from a corner and headed in at the near post.
An eventful game had been delayed for seven minutes earlier in the second half while paramedics tended to Leeds winger Jack Clarke, who was taken ill after being substituted by Bielsa at half-time.
United held their nerve at the death to force a result and move a point clear of title rivals Norwich City but Bielsa claimed his side had deserved more, despite their late rescue job.
Boro created a string of chances before the break and opened the scoring through Lewis Wing three minutes into the second half but came under heavy pressure as Leeds pressed for an equaliser.
“We suffered in the first half as the opponent was dangerous,” Bielsa said. “But the end of the first half and the second half were good. We could have won the game.
“If we take into account the 15 minutes of the first half where we were not at ease, apart from this segment I think we dominated and created chances. We deserved to score this goal and deserved to score other goals.
“We were always playing in the opponent’s box even if we couldn’t finish our attacks. We didn’t lose the ball before arriving in the box. This made me think we could score.”
United defender Pontus Jansson struck a post during the second half and Patrick Bamford - making his full league debut against the club he left in July - failed to take a glorious chance on the rebound.
Bielsa used both Bamford and top scorer Kemar Roofe in his line-up for the first time but said: “They couldn’t combine together a lot.
“Roofe made many movements and had deep options. Bamford participated less but he had two or three chances to score and he played in the most difficult zone of the pitch, surrounded by 4 players. He created chances and this is important.”
Middlesbrough manager Tony Pulis, whose side were poised to close within four points of Leeds, described the late equaliser as “hard to take”.
“I thought we were fantastic first half, I thought our midfield players were top drawer,” he said. “(John Obi) Mikel was the best player on the pitch by a mile for me.
“Coming in 0-0 at half-time, I was disappointed because I thought we should have been in front but second half I thought Leeds were the better team. At times they really pressed us and the lads dug in having got the goal.
“We just needed to be a little bit more composed in possession. We got a bit rash.”