Leeds United went to the top of the Championship after a goalkeeping error gifted the visitors all three points at Bramall Lane.
Young shotstopper Dean Henderson, who has impressed hugely during his loan from Manchester United, was caught out away from his goal and when he passed it straight to Jack Clarke, Pablo Hernandez tapped home into the empty net from the pull-back to score his seventh of the season.
It was a gift and undid a gritty performance from the Blades and the goal, coming eight minutes from time, was a sickening blow for Chris Wilder’s men.
It means Leeds go two points clear at the top of the Championship, but Norwich could regain the position when they host Rotherham United at 3pm.
The defeat will be a hard one to take for the Blades after battling hard for the entirety of the game, and Conor Washington hit the bar with a late overhead kick.
To say Wilder wasn’t best pleased with his side’s performance in last week’s derby with Rotherham would be an understatement, but the Blades responded in exemplary fashion with a midweek victory over Brentford.
It came at the right time ahead of Leeds United’s visit, a team flying in the Championship thanks to the astute tactics of head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
It’s well-documented that the former Argentina, Chile, Atletico Madrid, Marseille, Lazio and Lille manager is renowned for getting his teams to fit his style, and he’s even inspired the likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino thanks to his eye for detail and ability to improve his players.
The match was a challenge that his opposite number would fancy without a dash of trepidation. A test he’s more than willing to accept.
Wilder’s not one for sentiment, though. Conor Washington, who impressed in the 3-2 win in London and caused havoc all match, was replaced by skipper Billy Sharp. It was simply too big a game not to include his main man along with Mark Duffy coming in for John Lundstram.
Basham looked like he was ready to be United’s hero when a couple of marauding runs tangled the visitors, and his header from a John Fleck corner was cleared from the by-line.
A low save from Bailey Peacock-Farrell prevented a rasping shot from David McGoldrick from nestling into the bottom corner as the Blades started the brighter.
Leeds skipper Liam Cooper was forced off through injury and his replacement, Aapo Halme, came close to sticking the visitors ahead but for a fingertip reaction save from Dean Henderson keeping it out after a nasty deflection.
Bielsa switched to a three at the back to match the Blades as his side failed to truly threaten and simply couldn’t cope with the high tempo Wilder’s side had set.
Saying that, the Blades failed to carve out many chances themselves, and McGoldrick tried curling in from distance only for it to drop wide of the far upright.
Sharp undoubtedly had the best chance of the game minutes before the interval when he met McGoldrick’s whipped cross from the right. The Blades skipper headed the ball into the ground after peeling away from his marker but beat the turf in frustration as it missed the target. It was the chance he’d been waiting for.
Leeds improved after the break and Henderson was on call again as substitute Jack Clarke’s low effort looked to be creeping in.
United still looked the more dangerous but with three out of five defenders on bookings there was a degree of concern when Leeds drove forward in numbers.
Mateusz Klich danced his way past three defenders to fashion a chance that, again, Henderson did well to divert.
McGoldrick, perhaps fortunate to still be on the pitch after a first-half stamp, then latched onto a loose ball in the box, reacting quickest before Peacock-Farrell stood tall to block the drilled effort.
A rasping effort from Stevens had Unitedites up off their seats behind the Kop end but it fizzed narrowly over as the Blades tried desperately to put the game to bed.
Within a moment Leeds were up the other end and this time Henderson was rooted to his spot as Kemar Roofe connected with Barry Douglas’ cross. Thankfully for the Blades keeper the header flashed wide. Roofe’s reactions afterwards said it all. He should’ve done better.
The fresh legs of Washington, on for Duffy, helped to give United some added impetus up front as Sharp struggled to have much of a say.
But nothing could legislate for Henderson’s mistake at the worst possible time to gift Leeds the winner.
After taking a touch from a poor Egan back-pass, the keeper played the ball straight into the path of Clarke. With the goal gaping and Henderson caught on the far side of his box, Pablo Hernandez met Clarke’s cut-back and tapped home into the empty net.
An overhead kick from Washington in added time cracked the bar, but it was a tough afternoon in the end for the Blades who travel to Reading next Friday smarting from the defeat.
Sheffield United: Henderson; Basham, Egan, O’Connell; Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens (Johnson, 84’); Duffy (Washington, 63’); McGoldrick, Sharp (C). Subs not used: Lundstram, Coutts, Stearman, Cranie, Moore.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, Phillips, Cooper (C) (Halme, 21’), Douglas, Forshaw, Hernandez (Shackleton, 90’), Jansson, Klich, Alioski (Clarke, 46’), Roofe. Subs not used: Huffer, Saiz, Harrison, Baker.
Referee: Oliver Langford
Bookings: Sheffield United: Stevens (25’, cynical foul), Egan (33’, foul), Baldock (53’, foul), Ollie Norwood (80’, foul)
Leeds United: Roofe (foul, 41’), Halme (85’, foul)
Scorers: Sheffield United: None
Leeds United: Hernandez (82’)
Man of the Match: Pablo Hernandez (Leeds United)