NEWCASTLE, England (Reuters) - A dramatic stoppage-time equaliser from Leeds United striker Chris Wood ensured Newcastle had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the clash of the two Northern rivals in the Championship on Friday, allowing leaders Brighton to move four points ahead.
Despite the late setback, Rafa Benitez’s team are well set in the second automatic promotion slot in England’s second tier, eight points ahead of third-placed Huddersfield Town with four games remaining.
Brighton kept on track for promotion after goals in either half from French winger Anthony Knockaert earned them a 2-0 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday.
Chris Hughton’s team will be promoted on Monday if they beat Wigan Athletic and Huddersfield fail to beat Derby. Even if other results do not help them, Brighton will go up if they take four points from their remaining four matches.
Leeds still have some work to do if they are to secure a place in the promotion playoffs but the late leveller leaves them in fourth place -- three points ahead of seventh placed Fulham.
After a frantic start, in front of a 52,301 crowd at St James’ Park, Leeds came close to an opener in the ninth minute when Spanish winger Alfonso Pedraza’s long range effort crashed down off the bar and Newcastle keeper Karl Darlow did well to keep out Kemar Roofe’s headed follow-up.
The Yorkshire side were playing with intensity and determination but Newcastle gradually became dominant and visiting keeper Rob Green was almost caught out at the near post by a Jonjo Shelvey corner in the 26th minute.
Moments later, the lively Newcastle winger Matt Ritchie was not far off with a long range left-foot strike that flashed just wide.
Four minutes before break, Newcastle’s French midfielder Yoan Gouffran struck the post with a drive from the edge of the area and from the resulting corner Chancel Mbemba had a clear header but powered it straight at Green.
The home pressure continued after the break with Ritchie testing Green again with a low bending free kick which the former England keeper did well to push wide.
Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic threatened when he outpowered Luke Ayling and lifted the ball over Green and goalwards, but Pontus Jansson was quick and alert to clear the danger.
The breakthrough finally came for Newcastle in the 67th minute when Mitrovic headed the ball across the face of the goal and skipper Jamaal Lascelles rose to power in a header which Green reached but was unable to stop crossing the line.
Newcastle looked comfortably in charge but then deep into injury time, Roofe floated a ball in from the left and New Zealand international Wood, broke free of his marker and confidently slotted home.
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis