On a night of protests by Leeds fans against owner Massimo Cellino and, ironically, by the controversial Italian on behalf of fans against Sky TV’s freedom to dictate kick-off times, Middlesbrough missed a chance to regain top spot in the Championship and might consider themselves fortunate to leave Elland Road with a point, finishing the match with 10 men after Ben Gibson was sent off.
Inconsistent Leeds have only one win in their last nine Championship matches but it took two fine saves from Middlesbrough goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos to deny them victory here.
The veteran former Greece international somehow kept out a second-half header from Leeds striker Souleymane Doukara and denied the Senegalese in a stoppage time one-on-one to earn his side a 17th clean sheet of the season.
Yet as an attacking force, Aitor Karanka’s side came up short even with £9m striker Jordan Rhodes in the starting line-up for the first time after scoring in his second game after coming off the bench to salvage a point at MK Dons last week.
The January deadline day signing missed his two best chances of the night and was ultimately substituted as Middlesbrough’s promotion wobble extended to five matches without a win, handing Hull a chance to open up a clear lead if they can beat Brighton on Tuesday night.
Leeds had looked the brighter side in the first half yet had an escape when goalkeeper Marco Silvestri spilled an effort from Christian Stuani before his failure to deal with a cross ended with Giuseppe Bellusci clearing off the line from Gaston Ramirez.
Gibson was sent off a minute from the end of normal time when his foul on Lee Erwin earned him a second yellow.
Cellino was the target for another protest by Leeds fans unhappy with his running of the club. After the Italian took legal action to remove anti-Cellino posters from advertising boards outside the East Stand last week, the “Time to Go Massimo” action group on this occasion projected huge messages on to an outside wall of the South Stand before kick-off.
Leeds United (4-1-2-1-2): Silvestri; Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor; Diagouraga (Murphy, 90); Dallas (Mowatt, 71), Bridcutt; Cook; Antenucci (Erwin, 79), Doukara. Substitutes not used Peacock-Farrell (gk), Coyle, Bamba, Adeyemi.
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1): Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Fry, Gibson, De Laet; Stuani (Nugent, 67), Leadbitter, Clayton, Downing; Ramirez (Adomah, 67); Rhodes (Kalas, 89). Substitutes not used Agazzi (gk), De Pena, De Sart, Forshaw.
Referee C Pawson (South Yorkshire).