SHEFFIELD Wednesday moved into the Championship play-offs with victory over Leeds United in an entertaining Yorkshire derby at Hillsborough tinged with controversy.
After a bright first-half display from the visitors, Gary Hooper scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half to give Wednesday a fourth successive win.
The striker – in the final appearance of his current loan spell from Norwich – capitalised twice from poor defending after good work from man of the match Fernando Forestieri.
Leeds thought they had pulled one back with 12 minutes remaining when Liam Cooper bundled home but Stuart Dallas’s free-kick had to be retaken – and the goal ruled out – as Forestieri had not left the field when being substituted.
Referee Anthony Taylor – a late call-up for the ill Kevin Friend – awarded the goal initially but then changed his mind after consulting with fourth official Geoff Eltringham.
The decision was described by Leeds head coach Steve Evans – who had missed the incident having gone to the dressing room to use the toilet – as “the worst you will ever see” and “absolutely horrendous”.
Opposite number Carlos Carvalhal thought “it was clear that the substitution had not finished” as Lucas Joao had not entered the field before Taylor signalled for the free-kick to be taken.
It mattered little in the end after Hooper showed his predatory instincts from close range on two occasions in quick succession to take Wednesday up to fifth in the table – their highest position of the season so far.
Amid a bright start from the hosts, the former Celtic frontman headed over Jack Hunt’s cross early on but Leeds grew into the contest and had the better first-half chances.
Souleymane Doukara – who scored the Football League’s fastest goal after 12 seconds at Portman Road on Tuesday – missed a sitter from four yards albeit Wednesday keeper Lewis Price made a miraculous stop after saving well from a low Dallas effort.
On-loan Middlesbrough winger Mustapha Carayol then missed his kick inside the box when latching on to a mishit Doukara shot.
Having been second best for long periods in the first half, Wednesday broke the deadlock just 70 seconds after the restart.
Marco Silvestri cheaply conceded a corner and – as a scrappy melee ensued – was eventually beaten when Forestieri’s persistence kept the situation alive and Hooper bundled the ball in despite the best efforts of Cooper on the line.
The Leeds keeper was culpable three minutes later when spilling Forestieri’s 20-yard shot and Hooper was on hand to stab into the bottom corner.
Frustration appeared to kick in for Leeds, who were fortunate not to have Lewis Cook sent off for an aggressive lunge on Jack Hunt which received only a yellow card.
Doukara almost responded with a crisp strike that rattled the side netting after being fed by Luke Murphy before the drama ensued, to the fury of the Leeds bench.
At the second time of asking, Dallas’s free-kick found the head of Scott Wootton but Daniel Pudil – who was also lucky not to be shown a second yellow for a foul on Doukara – made a last-ditch clearance off the line.
Although Wednesday had a firm grip, Leeds pressed in the closing stages but to no avail as the Whites suffered back-to-back away defeats having previously gone eight games unbeaten.
It was Wednesday’s first victory over their fierce rivals since the infamous 6-0 drubbing two years ago – and their fifth in six league games as the Owls continue their fine start to 2016 and illustrate their play-off intentions.
Substitutes: Lucas Joao (on for Forestieri 78′), Helan (on for Wallace 83′) and Semedo (on for Hooper 87′).
Not used: Dawson (GK), Sougou, Palmer, Nuhiu.
Booked: Hutchinson (34′), Pudil (74′)
Goals: Hooper (47′, 50′)
Substitutes: Mowatt (on for Carayol 70′) and Antenucci (on for Murphy 75′).
Not used: Peacock-Farrell (GK), Bamba, Coyle, Adeyemi, Erwin.
Booked: Bellusci (37′), Cook (55′)
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire) – 6/10