Luke Ayling scored an injury-time winner as Leeds came back from two goals down to beat 10-man Wolves in a pulsating encounter at Molineux and move seven points clear of the relegation zone.
A bizarre, bruising and breathless Premier League contest was turned on its head by Raul Jimenez’s red card eight minutes into the second half.
At that point, Wolves were cruising, ahead in the game thanks to Jonny’s first goal since July 2020 and a superb effort from Francisco Trincao in the 11th minute of first-half stoppage time – and facing a side forced into three injury-related first-half substitutions.
But when Jimenez, who had already been booked, collided with Illan Meslier chasing a 50-50 ball, referee Kevin Friend decided the Mexican was at fault and produced a second yellow card.
The Leeds keeper could not continue and became the fourth visiting player to be replaced because of injury, joining the the only recently returned Patrick Bamford on the bench.
Amid the chaos, Wolves completely lost their way. Jack Harrison turned home the loose ball after Ayling had first struck a post to make it 2-1, then had the rebound cleared off the line.
And three minutes later, after a Dan James effort had come back off the woodwork, Rodrigo’s shot flew in as Conor Coady tried to clear off the line.
Then, just as eight minutes of injury time was being signalled, Ayling reacted quickest as the ball bounced on the edge of the six-yard box and smashed it home before being mobbed by ecstatic team-mates.
The incident-packed game also included a protestor attempting to tie themselves to the Wolves goal when the ball was at the other end of the pitch in the second half.
Unlike at Everton on Thursday, this time the stewards reacted quickly enough and dragged the culprit away.
Leeds triumph amid the tension
The desire for victory was seen in the melee on the touchline that followed Leeds’ winner.
Both sets of coaching staff got themselves in a push and shove, with Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips and Wolves defender Marcal continuing the verbals after order had been restored.
Phillips had run across the pitch to celebrate Ayling’s winner and was the only one pumped up as proceedings unfolded.
By the end, Wolves coach Bruno Lage was reacting with fury at every decision from referee Friend that was not to his liking.
When he has cooled down, Lage will realise his side were the architects of their own downfall.
Jimenez will argue he was unlucky to be sent off but it was a challenge the Mexican did not have to make, with his side already two goals ahead, controlling midfield and Leeds running out of personnel and ideas.
At that stage, Joao Moutinho was running midfield and Willy Boly was outstanding at the back, Wolves having survived a couple of early scares as Rodrigo and Bamford failed to take their chances.
The result cost them a place in the top six and ended a two-match winning sequence.
They also lost the services of Ruben Neves as the midfielder was forced off halfway through the opening period.
Bamford injury blow
After an excellent week, Leeds’ decision to replace the much-loved Marcelo Bielsa with Jesse Marsch is now looking like a masterstroke.
Back-to-back last-gasp wins for only the second time this season has been a pretty impressive way to bounce back from six straight defeats and after such a long struggle, Leeds’ top-flight future is looking more secure than it has done for some time.
However, this victory, as memorable as it was, came with a heavy price, particularly for striker Bamford, who did not reach half-time in the third game of his latest comeback.
When he made his England debut at the beginning of September, Bamford must have been looking forward to another memorable campaign after scoring 17 times on Leeds’ triumphant return to the top flight.
Within a fortnight, he suffered an ankle injury that ruled him out for three months and then immediately sustained a hamstring problem that kept him on the sidelines for another three months.
His latest setback came as he landed awkwardly as he led a charge into the Wolves penalty area.
Bamford immediately knew he could not continue and after walking slowly back to the dugout, slumped in his seat and pulled his shirt over his head in obvious disappointment.
Had that been the only injury issue Marsch had to deal with, it would have been bad enough.
That he also lost Diego Llorente and Mateusz Klich before half-time and goalkeeper Meslier after the collision that resulted in Jimenez’s dismissal made a difficult situation totally disruptive.
Klich’s exit at least allowed for a concussion substitution but it was little surprise that the visitors lost their way after a bright start.
When the half-time whistle sounded, it seemed to be a brief interlude in what would be a depressingly long night for Leeds.
But Jimenez’s exit provided the spark they needed to ignite an amazing comeback that sends them into the international break in very good spirits.
- 1Malheiro de Sá
- 15BolyBooked at 6mins
- 19Castro OttoSubstituted forFábio Silvaat 90+2′minutes
- 8NevesSubstituted forMachado Trincãoat 25′minutes
- 28João Moutinho
- 32DendonckerSubstituted forTomás Oliveiraat 90+2′minutes
- 10PodenceSubstituted forHwang Hee-Chanat 78′minutes
- 9JiménezBooked at 53mins
- 11Machado Trincão
- 17Fábio Silva
- 20Tomás Oliveira
- 26Hwang Hee-Chan
- 1MeslierSubstituted forKlaessonat 55′minutes
- 14LlorenteSubstituted forKochat 40′minutes
- 21StruijkBooked at 45mins
- 43KlichSubstituted forCresswellat 45+9′minutesBooked at 74mins
- 4ForshawBooked at 90mins
- 19RodrigoBooked at 67mins
- 9BamfordSubstituted forGreenwoodat 23′minutes
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Leeds United 3.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Leeds United 3.
Daniel James (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Offside, Leeds United. Adam Forshaw tries a through ball, but Daniel James is caught offside.
Robin Koch (Leeds United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Kristoffer Klaesson.
Attempt saved. Trincão (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Fábio Silva.
Attempt saved. Hwang Hee-Chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Adam Forshaw (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Adam Forshaw (Leeds United).
Chiquinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Nohan Kenneh (Leeds United) is shown the yellow card.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Chiquinho replaces Leander Dendoncker.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Fábio Silva replaces Jonny.
Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Leeds United 3. Luke Ayling (Leeds United) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal following a set piece situation.
Daniel James (Leeds United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Romain Saïss (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Attempt missed. Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Jack Harrison with a cross following a corner.