SHEFFIELD Wednesday produced probably their best performance of the season last night and showed the spirit and skill they will need to climb the Championship table.
Jay Bothroyd headed the Owls into a deserved lead with his first goal for the club, and the Owls dominated long periods of the televised game, creating enough chances to have sewn up their first win in nine games.
But controversies included the amazing refusal of a clear penalty for them for handball.
And the occasion of a Yorkshire derby was soured by an assault on keeper Chris Kirkland by a fan at the away end moments after ex-Blades midfield player Michael Tonge had volleyed a spectacular equaliser in the second half.
Bothroyd was a class act, among many impressive ones for Wednesday, and it took something special from Tonge to deny them, rather than the sort of defensive error that has been costly in their lean run.
While Kirkland was standing and facing upfield after the goal, a Leeds fan encroached on the pitch and struck him in the face.
There was a four-minute delay while the keeper received treatment. Owls fans chanted “scum” towards the Leeds end.
Police arrived to form a line across the front of the Leppings Lane end.
Yet it was the football that held the spotlight earlier, with Wednesday playing incisive and silky stuff.
Debut-maker Paul Corry showed the same precision that he employed against Rotherham reserves at Middlewood on Tuesday when he sprayed a pass out to Michail Antonio in the fifth minute.
The winger’s cross brought the first strike at goal - a header by Chris O’Grady and an easy save for Paddy Kenny.
But the ex-Blades man was lucky five minutes later. Bothroyd’s long-range drive was so powerful that the ball slipped past the keeper’s grasp: it hit the bar and bounced back to him.
Kenny should have been given no chance a minute after that. Antonio put a free header over the bar from close range from a Bothroyd free kick.
It was a far more menacing strike from Tonge in the 20th minute - 29-yard free kick that forced a flying save from Chris Kirkland.
Wednesday’s belief that they have not been getting the rub of the green lately was reinforced four minutes later.
Bothroyd a whipped in a corner from the right; Luciano Becchio dived at it and there a big appeal for handball from the Owls and their fans. From up in the stand and at first glance it looked a penalty - but nothing was given.
With Wednesday playing some good stuff, getting stuck in and holding the iniative, Neil Warnock seemed too preoccupied with directing operations to respond to the usual insults from the Kop with his usual wave.
Leeds’ scarfwaving following of 5,000 made plenty of noise but has seen little for them to cheer; a sniff of a goal for them was snuffed out by a great challenge from Miguel Llera at the near post.
The Owls’ recent tendency to fail with the final ball was seen again after Corry found Lewis Buxton with a superb crossfield pass; the full raced into the box but then failed to pick out Ross Barkley.
A Corry shot from a good 25 yards was worth a try - Kenny was right behind it.
Antonio’s long throw was an important weapon in last season’s promotion run-in, and last night’s was one of his specials, hurled to the centre of the box when Bothroyd leaped high to head into the bottom corner.
Half-time was a time for analysing controversies via TV replays: Becchio’s handball was not only a definite penalty, but he also stopped the ball from reaching Anthony Gardner, who was just behind him.
Llera, who was in rugged form, had clashes with Michael Brown and Becchio and could have been sent off.
O’Grady was in an offside position when Bothroyd scored - but there was doubt over whether or not he was actually distracting Kenny.
Stoppages disrupted the flow of the contest in the early part of the second half - including bookings for Jones and Gardner as Wednesday continued to show a a combative edge. They also created two more chances: Antonio finished a run with a low ball to Bothroyd, who could not steer an effort on target.
Two minutes later Bothroyd found Llera in the box; the Spaniard laid the ball back to Gardner, and the skipper’s on-target shot was deflected over the bar.
Then Antonio saw his effort diverted past a post, after poor defending from the visitors.
After Barkley then glanced a free header across goal from a Bothroyd corner, the Owls had made enough opportunities during the game to have established a far more commanding lead.
They tried once again, with Antonio hoisting the ball into the box, Gardner winning a header and sound defending com ing to Leeds’ rescue.
So it was cruel on Wednesday when Leeds equalised with an admittedly terrific volley by Tonge into the top corner from 25 yards.
That is when the game really turned sour, with the attack on Kirkland.
Wednesday applied pressure again in the closing stages but could find the goal to crown a display that merited three points.
Corry was handed a surprise league debut in midfield because Rhys McCabe was ruled out by a thigh injury.
Corry, the 21-year-old who was signed from University College Dublin in August, played in the Capital One Cup tie at Southampton.
A recall for Daniel Jones at left back came with Reda Johnson ruled out for several more weeks with his foot injury and Joe Mattock having suffered from the illness bug that has affected a few members of the squad.
Neil Warnock fielded the same side that drew with Bolton and won against Barnsley - including midfielder Rudy Austin despite his long haul back from international duty with Jamaica and problem with a slight foot injury.
* OWLS: Kirkland 7, Buxton 7, Llera 8, Gardner 7, Jones 7, Semedo 7, Bothroyd 9, Corry 7 (Mayor 83), Barkley 8, Antonio 6, O’Grady 7 (Madine 83). Subs: Bywater, Taylor, J Johnson, Rodri, Pecnik.
* LEEDS: Kenny, Byram, Pearce, Lees, Peltier (Varney 69), White, Austin (Norris h-t), Brown, Tongue, Diouf, Becchio. Subs: Ashdown,
Drury, Green, Gray, Hall.
* Bookings: Jones. Gardner, Brown.