A fluke own goal and a controversial red card marred PNE boss Simon Grayson’s return to Elland Road as Leeds beat North End 1-0.
PNE striker Will Keane and Leeds forward Chris Wood both missed golden one-on-one opportunities in the opening 25 minutes.
But the game was turned on its head when PNE keeper Jordan Pickford was sent off for an alleged handball outside the area after he came out of his box to stop Wood getting the ball in the 31st minute.
Replays suggest the ball hit Pickford on his shoulder but referee Gavin Ward awarded a free-kick and liaised with his assistant referee before showing the on-loan Sunderland a straight red card.
Grayson has not returned to the Elland Road dug out since he was sacked by Leeds in February 2012 and he was up in arms after the controversial decision.
The North End boss was forced to sacrifice midfielder John Welsh and bring on rookie 17-year-old keeper Matt Hudson - who was only named in the 16 due to PNE’s number two keeper Chris Kirkland picking up an illness.
And the 17-year-old impressed as the United players failed to get an effort on target whilst the young keeper was between the sticks.
Hudson was only beaten by his own team mate Alan Browne who mad an unlucky connection and accidentally headed the ball past Hudson in the first minute of the second half.
Ex-Leeds player Neil Kilkenny had three chances to level and impressed after coming off the bench but North End could not find that all important equaliser.
Grayson made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Birmingham on Tuesday night.
Daniel Johnson had a hamstring tweak and so Welsh returned to the starting XI.
North End started brightly as Gallagher tested Marco Silvestri’s reactions just a minute into the game. Garner won a free-kick just outside the box on the left and Gallagher’s dipping set-piece was just tipped wide by the Leeds keeper as he dived low to his right.
Josh Welsh battled for the ball on the edge of the area and managed to find Joe Garner who outfoxed the Leeds defence by teeing-up Keane who beat the offside trap to run one-on-one with Silvestri. The striker tried to dink the ball over the keeper but Silvestri managed to divert the ball away in the ninth minute.
Moments later Garner let rip from just outside the box and forced Silvestri to dive low to his left and tip away the fierce strike.
And North End tested the keeper once again from the subsequent set-piece as Tom Clarke pounced on Gallagher’s corner.
Leeds should have taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Bridcutt’s superb ball down the middle teed-up Chris Wood to run one-on-one with Pickford. The on-loan Sunderland man rushed out towards Wood, made himself big, put the striker under pressure and managed to save the shot with his legs in the 23rd minute.
The game was turned on its head in the 31st minute as Pickford was controversially sent off.
Scott Wootton whipped the ball into the mix from the right towards Wood who got half a yard on Huntington as the ball flew through the air, forcing Pickford to come out of his box. The keeper got to the ball first and it appeared to hit his shoulder but after deliberating with his linesman referee Gavin Ward under pressure from the home faithful showed Pickford a straight red.
Grayson sacrificed Welsh and handed 17-year-old keeper Hudson his first team début.
Leeds where galvanised by the red card but despite winning corner after corner they failed to test Hudson.
Just 40 seconds into the second half a fluke goal gave Leeds the lead as Browne headed Dallas’ cross into his own net as he tried to clear.
Luke Murphy’s 25-yard low shot fizzed wide of Hudson’s right post and Gallagher was booked for a foul on Cook in the 62nd minute as North End weathered a storm of United attacks.
Cunningham was booked for a foul on the right and substitute Neil Kilkenny tested Silvestri as North End tried to find an equaliser.
Kilkenny found space on the edge of the box and he launched a fierce effort that surprised Silvestri who just tipped the ball over the bar.
Clarke was booked for a foul on substitute Souleymane Doukara in the 78th minute as Leeds countered and Reach was booked for a challenge on Charlie Taylor.
North End kept on pressing for a goal as Vermijl pounced of Reach’s cross from the right at the back post but a back peddling Silvestri managed to hang on to the ball.
As full-time approached Kilkenny had his third chance of the game after coming off the bench as his header was just tipped over by Silvestri.
Kilkenny was booked for a foul moments later but North End could not get the all important equaliser.
PNE: Pickford, Vermijl, Clarke, Huntington, Cunningham, Reach, Welsh (Hudson, 33), Browne (Kilkenny, 55), Gallagher, Garner, Keane (Doyle. 87). Subs not used: Wright, Woods, Brownhill, Hugill.
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Byram, Bridcutt, Murphy (Doukara, 63) Cook, Dallas (Phillips, 90), Wood (Antenucci, 83) Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Coyle, Bamba, Mowatt.
22,641 (894 PNE)