Marcelo Bielsa’s hopes of taking Leeds United back to the Premier League after a 15-year hiatus through automatic promotion suffered a huge blow on Friday with 10-man Wigan beating them 2-1.
A Gavin Massey double – one in each half – saw the tier two strugglers come from behind to silence the 30 000-plus home supporters and leave Leeds third behind Sheffield United on goal difference with three matches remaining.
Sheffield United had earlier moved back into second after emerging 2-0 winners against 10-man Nottingham Forest.
Leeds looked to be well on their way to three points when Wigan’s Cedric Kipre was red-carded for handling the ball on the line.
Even though Pablo Hernandez’s penalty was saved the hosts went 1-0 up soon afterwards with Patrick Bamford scoring.
However, Massey levelled for Wigan a minute before the break with a stunning strike and added a second with a header just after the hour mark.
Massey’s double gives Wigan a five-point advantage over third from bottom Rotherham – who lost 4-3 to Swansea.
Second-half goals from Mark Duffy and Enda Stevens gave Sheffield United a vital win – after Yohan Benalouane received a straight red two minutes into the second half – to end a run of two draws.
The Blades’ win dashed leaders Norwich City’s hopes of celebrating a return to the Premier League later on Friday – the Canaries would have gone up if United had lost and they beat Sheffield Wednesday.
“They (Forest) are a good side with an experienced manager so it was good to get in front, close the game out and get back to what we do,” United manager Chris Wilder told Sky Sports.
“It’s been a great effort by everyone and we are not done yet. It’s been a tough week but we came roaring back,” added the 51-year-old Englishman, who was voted Championship manager of the year by his peers.
United had looked a bit blunt up front in a goalless first half with their talismanic leading scorer Billy Sharp sitting out the game with a hamstring injury.
However, once Benalouane was sent for an early shower having brought down David McGoldrick there was no doubt about the result.
Duffy’s brilliant curled effort beat Forest goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon to put them 1-0 up, but the Romanian international saved his side from going further behind a minute later as his brilliant reflex save denied McGoldrick.
However, he could do nothing five minutes from fulltime as Stevens slotted home into the far corner for his first goal at home in over a year.
At the other end of the table Bolton’s nightmare season – beset by financial worries – saw them join Ipswich in the third tier after they lost 2-0 to Aston Villa.
Goals by Jack Grealish and Tammy Abraham sealed their fate and ensured Villa eased to their ninth successive victory as they eye the play-offs with enormous confidence.