Newcastle United’s Championship title ambitions suffered a setback as Leeds United grabbed a last-gasp point at St James’s Park last night.
The 1-1 draw allowed Brighton, earlier 2-0 winners at Wolves, to move four points above Rafa Benitez’s Magpies.
But the Magpies are still eight points ahead of third-top Huddersfield in the fight for automatic promotion, though the Terriers have a game in hand.
A 95th-minute goal from Chris Wood saw Leeds claim a point after surviving a second-half onslaught, cancelling out a Jamaal Lascelles header.
Benitez was unhappy with the five minutes added on by referee Christopher Kavanagh, who had stop play after a Leeds supporter ran on to the pitch from the home end to shake the hands of the visiting players.
Benitez was also frustrated at his team’s defending for Wood’s late goal. “I am pleased with the performance of the team, the commitment, the passion, the way we played the chances we had,” said the Spaniard.
“I am disappointed with the mistake at the end, I say at the end in 95th minute. Today was 95 minutes!
“It was very difficult for me to understand that. I don’t understand a lot of things in the last few games.
“Why did we have a penalty that took seven minutes and we only got three minutes at the end (against Wigan). This was 95 minutes. I don’t understand a lot of things in the last few games.
“We have to be proud of the players, but disappointed not to get the three points.
“We have to try to be ready for the next game (at Ipswich on Monday).”
Asked about the pitch invader, Benitez added: “I will not talk too much about that. I’m not very happy with things that were going on.
“You could see today another game with strange things. We try to focus on our team. We are a top side and we try our best on the pitch and we try to be correct all the time.”
Benitez said he was “proud” of the performance against Leeds, who spent much of the game on the back foot. “The way we were playing I was really pleased and proud,” said Benitez. “I will say again, if you analyse the last games, my understanding of the rules have changed a little bit. Everything.”
Kavanagh failed to award a penalty after Luke Ayling brought Chancel Mbemba down in the box.
Aleksandar Mitrovic played a key role as the home side took the lead on 67 minutes. He headed Yoan Gouffran’s deep cross back across goal for Lascelles to climb highest and direct the ball across the line.
Wood’s 28th goal of the season, from a Kemar Roofe cross, edged Leeds three points clear of seventh-placed Fulham in the race for a play-off place.
Boss Garry Monk saluted his side, saying: “I think we must have a granite chin.
“When you get an equaliser at the end of a game like that, it feels much better in one changing room than the other. Of course it felt good in ours. In the second half we didn’t play well but we showed what spirit we have.”
Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Mbemba, Dummett, Ritchie (Yedlin 84), Shelvey, Hayden (Colback 79), Gouffran, Perez (Diame 90), Mitrovic. Subs: Hanley, Elliot, Atsu, Murphy. Booked: Shelvey, Colback. Goal: Lascelles 67
Leeds Utd: Green, Ayling, Bartley, Jansson, Berardi (Taylor 78), Bridcutt (Doukara 76), Phillips, Roofe, Hernandez, Pedraza (Sacko 61), Wood. Subs: O’Kane, Dallas, Vieira, Peacock-Farrell. Booked: Jansson, Bartley, Phillips. Goal: Wood 90.
Att: 52,301. Ref: Chris Kavanagh (Lancashire).