Jack Harrison could have been fighting relegation at a different club but the decision to keep him at Leeds United is proving a masterstroke.
Harrison was halfway through a medical at Leicester on deadline day, ahead of a £25 million move, but was then called back 90 minutes before the cut-off point.
It would have been easy for his head to drop, but Harrison is now playing a crucial role in Javi Gracia’s mission to avoid dropping into the Championship. After a goal and an assist in the 2-2 draw with Brighton last weekend, here was another excellent performance which encapsulated the battling qualities Leeds will need in the weeks ahead.
The former England Under-21 international delivered the first blow in an absorbing, yet crazy, contest which ended with Leeds hoisting themselves out of the bottom three and into 14th place.
Leicester are still frustrated over the circumstances of the aborted deal on deadline day, with American franchise 49ers Enterprise understood to be behind the turnaround.
The current minority stakeholders are expected to complete a full takeover of Leeds this summer and their move to recall Harrison could be rewarded with survival. Gracia also has two league wins since his surprise arrival and this felt like a significant moment in their season.
“Jack is a very important player for now and the future, and we need to look after him,” said Gracia. “He can play in a number of positions and is playing at a very high level.
We have time to enjoy the win and can prepare with confidence for the next game. There are 11 games left and all of them will be like finals for us.” While Leeds will take huge encouragement from this result, Wolves cannot have envisaged such a woeful afternoon.
Since Julen Lopetegui’s appointment in November, home results have been impressive, but this was at times excruciating with four goals conceded and defender Jonny and substitute Matheus Nunes sent off.
The Football Association is likely to launch an investigation into the chaotic scenes after Leeds’s fourth goal in added time, with the Wolves bench furious when Rodrigo scored seconds after an alleged foul on Adama Traore was unpunished.
Nunes, an unused substitute, was dismissed by referee Michael Salisbury for confronting the fourth official. There was also anger early on after a foul on Nelson Semedo in the penalty area did not result in a spot-kick. It was more than 80 minutes after the final whistle until Lopetegui emerged.
He confirmed that they would appeal against both red cards. “I can make a mistake every day in my work, but every time a mistake against us is hard to accept,” he said.
“It was a very clear penalty and translating my feelings now is not easy. I want to have fair decisions but I have the feeling it is unbalanced.”
Wolves already looked shaky at the back when Leeds took the lead after just six minutes with Harrison placing his shot into the corner from 12 yards.
Five minutes into the second half, Leeds capitalized again on poor defending with Marco Roca’s corner allowed to drift all the way to the back post and present Luke Ayling with a simple header.
Rasmus Kristensen added a third goal, just 31 seconds after coming on as a substitute, dispossessing Jonny and then driving the ball across Jose Sa.
Jonny did provide a brilliant consolation goal, lobbing Illan Meslier from 45 yards after the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance.
Matheus Cunha gave Wolves hope with a deflected shot but Jonny was sent off in the late stages for a crude challenge on Ayling.
To complete an agonizing afternoon for the home team, Rodrigo raced clear to chip Sa in added time after Salisbury inexplicably failed to award a free-kick for Roca’s pull on Traore’s shirt.