Leeds end 2019 as the division’s leaders after a day of supreme drama, stealing past West Brom, who lost 2-0 at home to Middlesbrough, after a chaotic 5-4 win at Birmingham where Wes Harding’s injury-time own-goal proved decisive.
Leeds stormed into a two-goal lead after strikes from Hélder Costa and Jack Harrison but a calm finish from 16-year-old Jude Bellingham was followed by Lukas Jutkiewicz’s scrambled header to make it 2-2. Luke Ayling’s dipping volley put Leeds back ahead only for Jeremy Bela’s header in the 83rd minute following goalkeeper’s Kiko Casilla’s misjudgement. Under 60 seconds later, Stuart Dallas scored his second late strike of the festive period to make it 4-3 to Leeds. Then came Jutkiewicz’s sliding finish at the far post, and Harding’s crucial mistake, forced by a fierce cross from the excellent Ayling.
A thumping header from Daniel Ayala put strugglers Middlesbrough in front against West Brom, who suffered a first home defeat of the season. Boro defended in numbers to protect their lead, only for Ashley Fletcher to score from fully 40 yards out to secure a vital win for Jonathan Woodgate’s team.
Fulham are in third after beating Stoke, with Bobby Decordova-Reid’s securing the Cottagers only their second win in six matches. Brentford’s run of form hit the skids in their trip across London to Millwall, whose goal came when Aiden O’Brien side-footed home in the first half, and who, in 11th, lie just two points off the play-off positions.
Bristol City’s recent slump came to an end with their 3-0 defeat of Luton, with Marley Watkins scoring in the fourth minute, Famara Diedhiou’s penalty on half-time and Andreas Weimann’s angled finish securing City’s first win in December.
Sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday were two goals down to Cardiff within eight minutes thanks to Robert Glatzel and Junior Hoilett. Ten minutes later, Tom Lees halved the deficit but Wednesday never found an equaliser. Preston, in seventh, never located an answer to two early goals from Reading’s John Swift and Lucas João. Hull needed a late, close-range finish from Jackson Irvine to secure a 2-1 win at QPR.
Huddersfield fell behind to a goal from Blackburn’s Danny Graham but staged a second-half comeback capped by a thunderbolt of a strike from Steve Mounié. Brice Samba was Nottingham Forest’s hero, saving a penalty from Wigan’s Josh Windass, meaning that Tobias Figueiredo’s 60th minute header would prove the winner. Swansea and Barnsley played out a dour 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium, leaving the Tykes third-bottom but behind Stoke only on goal difference.
Leaders Wycombe suffered a third loss in succession while Coventry enjoyed a first away win of the campaign, with Matt Godden completing his hat-trick with a left-foot strike from distance in a 4-1 win that lifted the Sky Blues to fifth place.
Ipswich dropped from second after a 5-3 defeat at Lincoln made it almost two months without a win for Paul Lambert’s team. Oxford now occupy the second automatic promotion spot after Mark Sykes scored the decisive goal at AFC Wimbledon. A point behind are Rotherham, who started slowly against Peterborough before Richard Wood put them ahead in the 50th minute, and then calamity struck the visitors in the shape of own goals for Dan Butler and Joe Ward and a red card for Frankie Kent. Rotherham also had Joe Mattock sent off.
Sunderland’s woes were lifted by a 2-1 at Doncaster after Chris Maguire’s winner. And Fleetwood manager Joey Barton was sent off after a disallowed goal against Bristol Rovers in a goalless draw.
Port Vale’s 2-0 defeat of Swindon, courtesy of strikes from Scott Burgess and Jake Taylor, left a door open at the top of the table, only for second-placed Exeter to draw 2-2 at Colchester.
Forest Green are in sixth place after Farrend Rawson’s winner ended Macclesfield’s run of five successive draws, while Jake Jervis scored twice as Salford ran out 4-1 winners in their local derby with Oldham.
Grimsby, without a win since September, scored early against Crawley through Jake Hessenthaler but Ashley Nadesan’s equaliser denied them. Stevenage stayed bottom after Niall Canavan’s 96th minute winner for Plymouth.