Leeds manager Jesse Marsch says his side will “invest everything” in a final-day push for Premier League survival after Pascal Struijk’s injury-time equaliser secured a vital draw against Brighton.
Marsch’s side toiled at a raucous Elland Road but looked to be edging nearer to relegation after Danny Welbeck coolly finished to give Brighton a deserved first-half lead.
But the home support defiantly roared Leeds on and Brighton keeper Robert Sanchez brilliantly denied Mateusz Klich in each half, while also turning away a Raphinha free-kick as pressure built.
Leeds striker Joe Gelhardt had gone close early on but his persistence was rewarded at the death when he bundled space in the area to lift a ball across goal, where substitute Struijk nodded home before diving into home supporters in celebration.
It means Leeds move a point above the bottom three with just a trip to Brentford remaining, while Burnley drop to 18th but have two games to play and a substantially better goal difference.
“The points shifts the pressure a bit,” Marsch said after the frenetic draw. “This is a psychological battle we are in. What you see is we are put in difficult situations and the resolve of our team.
“We need to be able to show that at the beginning of matches too. It is a fight. Nothing comes easy for us. We seem to dig holes and then have to find a way to dig out. We are ready. We are going to invest everything we have in this last match and see if we can do this.”
Frenzied, desperate and crucial
Survival is still out of Leeds’ hands but the outpouring of emotion when Struijk – who came on in the 83rd minute – scored, underlined how there is still hope.
Everton – a point above Leeds – have two games to play and can lift themselves clear of trouble. But this scrappy Struijk header could prove priceless as it means Burnley now travel to Aston Villa on Thursday knowing a defeat would mean it is Leeds who have Premier League survival in their own hands on the final day.
In recent weeks, Marsch’s side have arguably fallen foul of playing with too much emotion. Red cards in a defeat at Arsenal and at home to Chelsea proved crucial and screamed of a side playing on the edge in their quest to secure top-flight status.
They started with conviction and were unfortunate when Gelhardt saw a goal-bound shot cleared off the line by a team-mate as the effort struck Liam Cooper’s face.
But too often Leeds played in a frenzied, sometimes desperate way, forcing passes and snatching at openings with frequency as they found the target just five times with 19 shots on the day.
Crucially, they used the emotion of the day positively late on to snatch something. They clocked 5km more in distance covered as a team and 20 sprints more than Brighton – evidence of a response to the passionate support on offer.
Only Manchester City – on nine – have scored more goals than the seven Leeds have managed in added time this season and Marsch deserves praise for his changes and for keeping his side so positive.
Leeds deserved the point for their second-half improvement, though they had come close to being finished off moments before equalising when Welbeck headed wide from six yards.
On such fine margins seasons can turn and Leeds can only hope this memorable late leveller will indeed prove significant.
Impressive Brighton let points slip
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Brighton offered a mix of craft and quality, especially in a first half that saw Solly March fire wide when one-on-one and Pascal Gross force a save when well placed.
The side that beat Wolves by three and Manchester United by four in recent weeks were simply too poised for Leeds early on, constructing passes in the home half while Marsch’s side played with far more panic.
Welbeck turned Diego Llorente two ways before flicking the ball over home keeper Illan Meslier for a fine opener having picked up a pass from the impressive Yves Bissouma.
Bissouma completed 91% of his passes on the day but was equally adept without the ball as he made more clearances than anyone in a Brighton shirt.
Late substitute Tariq Lamptey pulled an opening wide moments after Leeds had levelled but Brighton boss Graham Potter will likely be frustrated in dropping points so late on.
In truth his side waned after the break and fell foul of facing a team who found the kind of sharpness that so often materialises when a side has everything to play for.