IN a division of fine margins, Leeds United may rue their failure to finally end their hoodoo against runaway Championship leaders Cardiff.
Despite a below-par display by the visitors, they escaped from Elland Road with a 1-0 win to restore their ten-point advantage over their nearest rivals.
The Whites remain six points adrift of a play-off place – but boss Neil Warnock was disappointed it had not been whittled down to three.
“It is a cruel game sometimes. Everything about it was cruel,” said Warnock.
A scrappy goal in the 63rd minute settled a dour encounter in which each side’s centre-halves were the outstanding performers.
There seemed no danger from an overhit cross from the right, but York-based teenager right-back Sam Byram shanked his clearance straight to Craig Bellamy on the edge of the box.
The Welsh international’s strike was going wide but found debut substitute Fraizer Campbell, who diverted the ball past Paddy Kenny.
It was only the £650,000 signing from Sunderland’s second touch and was Cardiff’s only effort on target.
Leeds only had two openings themselves – Ross Barkley missing badly from close range at 0-0 and Tom Lees having a point-blank header saved by David Marshall as United pressed for an equaliser.
Warnock was adamant Leeds should have had a late penalty after a Mark Hudson handball, but in a well populated penalty area it was no surprise the officials did not spot it.
Cardiff hung on to maintain their unbeaten run against Leeds which stretches back to February 1984. The good news for Leeds is they are unlikely to meet again next season.
While street-wise Cardiff look Premiership bound, United are once more stuck in mid-table and have so far lacked the consistency to propel themselves into the play-off mix.
They will be looking for new striker Steve Morison, deemed not fit enough to face Cardiff, to fill the scoring boots of Luciano Becchio and get a promotion push off the ground, starting at Wolves on Saturday.
Leeds: Kenny, Byram, Lees, Peltier, White, Barkley, Brown, Austin, Varney, Diouf (Habibou 72), McCormack. Subs (not used): Ashdown, Pearce, Green, Warnock, Tonge, Norris.
Cardiff: Marshall, Connolly, Hudson, Turner, Taylor, Conway (Helgusson 78), Ginnarsson, Bo-Kyong (Campbell 60), Smith, Bellamy. Subs (not used): McNaughton, Cowie, Noone, Mason, Lewis.
Referee: Mike Dean. Attendance: 19,236.