VICTORY at Newcastle came at a price for Leeds United.

Just nine minutes into his first start for the Whites since signing in September, Spanish international centre-back Diego Llorente limped off.

With Robin Kock still some weeks away from recovering from his knee injury, injury-hit Lorente’s latest problem has provided coach Marcelo Bielsa with yet another defensive headache.

“He has a similar problem to the one he had before,” said Bielsa. “It’s a problem for him, for us, for all of us. In this moment, what worries me is Diego’s state of mind, given the succession of injuries he has had. It’s natural that he's sad because of this now and we share that sadness."

Lorente’s replacement Pascal Struijk proved a solid substitute in the 2-1 win but Leeds remain short on experienced central defenders to partner skipper Liam Cooper.

Next in the pecking order are youngsters Oliver Casey and Charlie Cresswell, who have yet to make a Premier League start. Against sides that deploy two strikers, Bielsa likes to play three central defenders. He could once more move Luke Ayling inside from full-back, although that has not really worked in recent weeks. Alternatively, he could drop Kalvin Phillips back but Leeds are not the same side without him in midfield.

The other option would be to dip into the first instalment of the £50 million investment in the club by NFL franchise San Francisco 49ers before the end of the current transfer window. Under Bielsa, Leeds have never done much business in January and the club may feel they already have the resources to meet their current aim – Premier League survival.

They moved onto 26 points at the halfway stage of the season with a crucial win on Tyneside on Tuesday evening thanks to goals by Raphinha and Jack Harrison.

The Whites have struggled in recent games, failing to score in back-to-back losses against Tottenham and Brighton, either side of an FA Cup humbling at League Two side Crawley Town but they just edged out a Newcastle side who have now taken just two points from the last available 27.

The big pre-match surprise was the omission of midfielder Mateusz Klich, always one of the first names on Bielsa’s teamsheet with the versatile Stuart Dallas operating in that role.

Steve Bruce’s side got nowhere near Leeds in the first half, the opening goal on 17 minutes reflecting the Magpies' problems. They lost possession too easily and Leeds poured forward unchallenged, Rodrigo having time and space to pick out Raphinha on the edge of the box, the Brazilian finding the bottom corner with a cool side-footed finish.

Leeds were in control and could have made it 2-0 before the break with a Raphinha shot against the post from a tight angle.

Bruce clearly got stuck into his players at half-time as they showed more fight and started to press Leeds into errors. On 57 minutes a passing move between Ayling and an off-colour Patrick Bamford broke down 30 yards from goal and Miguel Almiron collected a Callum Wilson touch before running through to finish.

The momentum of the game appeared to be swinging to the home side but the lead lasted just four minutes, with the influential Raphinha finding Jack Harrison free in the box to power a half-volley past Karl Darlow.

Bruce sent on Allan Saint-Maximin and the Frenchman’s direct running and trickery really stretched the visitors’ defence. Although Leeds’ attack continued to pose questions of their own, Newcastle gained the upper hand in midfield and a home goal looked more likely than a Leeds score.

Newcastle came close to a second equaliser through two headers from corners, Jamaal Lascelles clipping the bar and another from Jonjo Shelvey, tipped over by Illan Meslier.

Leeds held out to the relief of Bielsa, who said: “We expected a difficult game. There was a 20-minute spell after Jack Harrison's goal where it was difficult to control the game.

“For us it was a game we needed to win and it was very difficult but we managed to do it.”

Match-winner Harrison said: “I think we can be happy as a team to get this far but we can’t rest on our laurels - we have to keep pushing because you’re never safe in this league. We can’t get too complacent and hopefully we can end this season strong."

Leeds head to title-chasing Leicester City next on Sunday (2pm) before back-to-back home games on the newly-laid Elland Road turf against Everton on Wednesday, February 3 and Crystal Palace three days later.