Leeds United's odds-defying season still not enough as mathematical improbability and previous best warns of play-off pitfall

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Leeds United's 90-point haul after 44 Championship games this season would have seen them promoted in the vast majority of past second tier campaigns, but this time a total in excess of that number still might not be enough.

Daniel Farke's third crack at the Premier League ultimately hinges on results elsewhere but was given renewed hope on Monday night after Leeds recorded their 27th league victory of the season at the Riverside Stadium to move back into second place.

The Whites' 4-3 win over Middlesbrough tested the resolve of even the most serene Leeds supporter, in particular the final ten-minute spell in which Boro poured forward - including goalkeeper Seny Dieng - pumping balls into United's penalty area en masse.

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Leeds held out for the win and go into their final two fixtures of the season still with a chance of automatic promotion. It appears increasingly likely the top two will be made up of either Leicester City and Leeds, Leicester and Ipswich Town, or possibly even Leeds and Ipswich - if the Foxes fail to build on their current 91-point haul and other results go against them.

That seems decidedly improbable, though, as no team in the second tier's modern era (since 1988/89) has taken 91 points during the regular season and not been promoted, either automatically or via the play-offs.

Due to the nature of this season, though, even 93 or 94 points may not be enough for a place in the top two, while Leeds fans know all too well that chaos-inducing play-off football can throw up all sorts of scenarios whereby the 'better' team, or side finishing higher in the league table fails to come out on top at the end of a nerve-wracking Wembley Stadium finale.

In 2015/16, Brighton and Hove Albion were denied a spot in the Premier League due to inferior goal difference, pipped to the post by Middlesbrough, who remarkably they drew 1-1 with on the final day of the season. The Seagulls began the day with the possibility of lifting the title but were confined to the play-offs at the end of 90 minutes and were subsequently beaten by Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final.

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Going further back, Sunderland's 90-point tally in 1997/98 is the most ever by a second tier side not to be promoted. The Black Cats finished third, missing out on the automatics by a single point and were then defeated in the play-off final at the old Wembley by Charlton Athletic as Michael Gray missed the decisive spot-kick in the ensuing shootout.

Previous tales of near-misses and play-off woe will strike fear into those of a Leeds persuasion and solace cannot be taken from the fact the club are closing in on one of their finest seasons in recent history, because if promotion is not attained, 2023/24 will come to be known as a disappointment rather than a triumph.

Leeds can apply additional pressure on Ipswich, who were leapfrogged again by Farke's men on Monday night, with a second consecutive victory over Queens Park Rangers on Friday evening at Loftus Road. Doing so would mean Kieran McKenna's side need to take maximum points from back-to-back away games versus Hull City and Coventry City before the final weekend of the season on May 4.

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