ANDY HOLDSWORTH’S header sealed the sweetest of derby victories and slowed Leeds’ push for the play-offs.
Just 14 minutes of normal time remained when the 24-year-old connected with Joe Skarz’s inch-perfect cross and watched the ball go in off Casper Ankergren’s right-hand post as the Danish keeper remained rooted on his line.
Up to that stage, it had looked like it was going to be a game of no goals but plenty of talking points, with each side having a man sent off in the first half, when Town had two penalty appeals turned down.
Having been cautioned for a 32nd-minute foul on Michael Collins as he broke down the left, Leeds skipper Jonathon Douglas was shown a second yellow and therefore red when he checked Jon Worthington’s progress down the right seven minutes later.
Then Worthington, having been booked for a foul on Jonny Howson in the 42nd minute, suffered the same fate as Douglas in the 45th after crashing into Ankergren as he collected a low ball.
Worthington was certainly pushed by Frazer Richardson, but whether or not the connection with the keeper was deliberate, his fate was sealed when he tangled with Slovakian centre-back Lubomir Michalik, who was booked.
It meant Town had quickly lost their numerical advantage, but they stuck to their guns and deserved the victory if only for the fact that they created more clear-cut chances than their neighbours, who now haven’t won a competitive match in Huddersfield in nine attempts.
Gerry Murphy, whose other victory as caretaker manager was in last season’s home derby with Bradford, had said beforehand that this was a match for the fans, and how the home supporters in a season’s best 16,413 Galpharm turn-out (3,296 from Leeds) savoured the final whistle, blown after five minutes and 28 seconds of time added on.
Seeking revenge for December’s 4-0 drubbing at Elland Road, Murphy, who has picked the same starting XI for each of his games in charge, demanded passion and commitment from his players, and he got both by the bucketful.
Skipper Rob Page set the tone with a couple of no-nonsense headed clearances early on, and with the 3-5-2 system working well, Matt Glennon had only three real shots on target to deal with as he collected his second successive clean sheet.
Dougie Freedman’s hooked 17th-minute shot was saved, as was a low 83rd-minute effort by Andy Hughes.
Then two minutes into stoppage time, Glennon pushed Freedman’s close-range stab around his right-hand post for a corner.
Leeds had other opportunities, but Brad Johnson (12 minutes), Neil Kilkenny (24) and David Prutton (88) were wasteful with free-kicks from dangerous positions while Freedman curled an eighth-minute shot just over, and Howson (33rd minute) and Paul Huntington (84th) both had shots deflected for corners.
Meanwhile Johnson miscued a 63rd-minute cross when Tresor Kandol was in acres of space after Richardson’s teasing 50th-minute centre was excellently cleared by Nathan Clarke.
That set up a counter-attack which ended with Collins cutting in from the right and crashing a fine shot against the bar.
The Town midfielder had been lively all match, working hard to set up attacks in the first half, when Robbie Williams showed good reactions to return a poor kicked clearance by Ankergren, the keeper having to scramble to smother the 26th-minute shot.
Hertfordshire referee Paul Taylor ignored what appeared to be penalty-box holding by Huntington on both Andy Booth (28 minutes) and his ever-willing frontline partner Chris Brandon (42).
And the frustration continued when Town’s best spell of pressure, at the start of the second half, failed to yield a breakthrough, with Collins hitting the bar and Booth angling a header from a Holdsworth cross well wide.
The Leeds fans breathed a sigh of relief when Collins shot across the face of goal in the 71st minute, but it was head-in-hands time when Collins freed Skarz for his crucial cross to Holdsworth.
Skarz, a 71st-minute replacement for Williams, then had a chance to double Town’s lead, but after sprinting onto fellow substitute Malvin Kamara’s pass, his chip ended up on the roof of the net.
The lively Kamara then fired in an 87th-minute shot which Ankergren tipped over the top.
Made saves when he needed to and will be delighted at another clean sheet.
Was a bundle of energy at right wing-back and had the pleasure of heading home the winning goal.
Worked hard defensively but wasted a few set-piece chances and looked jaded before coming off.
Out of favour under Andy Ritchie, he has seized the opportunity presented by Gerry Murphy.
Very solid in the three centre-back system and made a key clearance from a Richardson cross.
Set the tone with a couple of great early headers as Town matched Leeds in the physical battle.
The fast-maturing 19-year-old certainly isn’t fazed by big matches. His play was simple but effective.
Will be highly disappointed by the red card which means a one-match ban, against Tranmere on Saturday.
Man-of-the-match display by the midfielder who ran all night, never shirked a tackle and should have scored.
Another honest shift from a local hero who will certainly have enjoyed putting one over on Leeds.
His enthusiasm and energy meant the Leeds defence were unable to relax at any stage.
Malvin Kamara for Brandon, 62mins; Joe Skarz for Williams, 71mins; Luke Beckett for Booth, 90mins. Not used: Tom Clarke, Alex Smithies.Booked: Collins. Sent off: Worthington (second bookable, 45mins).