It is said that scorelines never lie, but this one, if not quite the proverbial whopper, was certainly economical with the truth. Derby, who had led 2-0 despite being down to 10 men for nearly an hour, were within seconds of a deserved replay when Leeds struck twice in stoppage time.
On a morass which recalled some of the clubs' epic FA Cup clashes of the Seventies, Leeds looked set for their annual early exit when Marco Gabbiadini and Mark Simpson scored in the space of a minute after half- time. Already depleted by a knee injury to Igor Stimac and the dismissal of Gary Rowett, the First Division leaders massed behind the ball and hoped for the best.
Another burst of two goals in 60 seconds, from Gary Speed and Brian Deane, left Derby with half an hour to survive. They seemed to have withstood the siege when, deep in time added on, Gary McAllister finally edged the Premiership side ahead. A fourth Leeds goal by Tony Yeboah, his parting shot before joining Ghana at the African Nations Cup, added insult to injury time.
Derby appeared capable of avenging Leeds' Coca-Cola Cup win in November until two incidents in an eight-minute spell blew a substantial hole in their game plan. In the 23rd minute, Stimac was hurt in a challenge by Deane; then Rowett was dismissed for wrestling the same Leeds player to the ground as they jostled in pursuit of Mark Ford's pass out of defence.
The aerial ability of Dean Yates and the versatility of their captain, Robin Van der Laan, enabled the hosts to restore defensive order. However, the switching of Van der Laan from midfield inevitably allowed McAllister more scope, and Leeds had reason to anticipate that they would gradually make their numerical advantage tell.
Instead, the roof fell in. In the 49th minute, Leeds's failure to clear Paul Simpson's free-kick left Gabbiadini free to volley his 12th goal of the season. Moments later, Carlton Palmer dithered over a back-pass to Mark Beeney, allowing Simpson to nip in and poke the ball into an unguarded net.
Howard Wilkinson sent on Rod Wallace, but it was Tony Dorigo, exploiting gaps down the Derby right, who provided an assist on each occasion as Leeds hauled themselves back to parity by the hour. First, the left-back's drive was deflected to McAllister, who laid the ball off for Speed to drill it in from 12 yards.
Then Yeboah spotted Dorigo overlapping again. The ensuing low cross found Deane - booed relentlessly for his part in the earlier controversy - lunging in to score the least popular goal at the Baseball Ground for years. Leeds dominated possession thereafter, though Derby could have regained the lead had Gabbiadini not shot at Beeney when the unmarked Simpson was in support.
In the dying seconds Sean Flynn also tried his luck when he would have been advised to head for a corner flag. Beeney cleared upfield, Wallace headed on, and with Russell Hoult unwisely coming to his 18-yard line, McAllister slid Leeds into a 3-2 lead. Yeboah, seizing on Deane's flick- on, lobbed his 15th goal of the season seconds before the end.
Wilkinson, who had deemed his record signing, Tomas Brolin, unsuited to the "heated atmosphere" of a cup-tie, saw the game as Leeds's season in microcosm. "Very good at times and occasionally horrible," he said. "Enough to drive any manager potty."
Goals: Gabbiadini (49) 1-0; Simpson (50) 1-1; Speed (58) 2-1; Deane (59) 2-2; McAllister (90) 2-3; Yeboah (90) 2-4.
Derby County (3-4-3): Hoult; Yates, Stimac (Trollope, 26), Rowett; Kavanagh, Van der Laan, Flynn, Nicholson; Simpson, Willems, Gabbiadini (Wrack, 90). Substitute not used: Sutton (gk).
Leeds United (5-3-2): Beeney; Kelly, Palmer, Wetherall (Wallace, 54), Jobson, Dorigo; Ford, McAllister, Speed; Deane, Yeboah. Substitutes not used: Couzens, Lukic (gk).
Referee: P Jones (Loughborough).
Sending-off: Derby: Rowett.
Bookings: Derby: Gabbiadini. Leeds: Kelly, Deane, Jobson, Ford.
Man of the match: McAllister.
Attendance: 16,155.Reuse content