It was not just a fan protest against divisive owner Massimo Cellino that lit up Elland Road as Leeds and Middlesbrough went on to contest an entertaining goalless draw.
There were plenty of chances and talking points in the open Sky Bet Championship encounter that followed renewed protests against United’s outspoken Italian owner.
A string of managers, on-field disappointments and off-field controversies have punctuated Cellino’s two-year ownership, leading protest group ‘Time To Go Massimo’ to step up its campaign calling for the Leeds owner to sell.
Just days after making headlines with a poster outside the ground, the group took its campaign up a notch by beaming messages calling for Cellino to leave onto the East Stand - at a cost of £2,600.
Leeds played their best football in weeks in the first half, but Ritchie de Laet’s effort off his own crossbar was as close at Steve Evans’ men came to a breakthrough.
Giuseppe Bellusci had to be alert with last-ditch interventions both sides of half-time, although Middlesbrough goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos outshone the Leeds defender by somehow clawing away a Souleymane Doukara header.
Play swung from end-to-end as the visitors looked for a goal that would send them back top of the Championship and Leeds searched for a much-needed league win, but not even former United midfielder Ben Gibson’s late sending off could sway the match.
The protests against Cellino’s ownership were largely forgotten for 90 minutes, with the hosts starting strongly as Mirco Antenucci and Stuart Dallas had early chances.
There is a reason Evans’ side are 16th, though, and their soft underbelly would have been exposed inside 14 minutes was it not for Bellusci.
The Italian reacted quickly when compatriot Marco Silvestri spilled a dangerous cross from Gaston Ramirez, before clearing the Southampton loanee’s effort of the line from the resulting corner.
A number of Boro’s 2,782 support that they had breached the Leeds goal soon after, but full debutant Jordan Rhodes’ header counted for nothing as the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play before the cross came in.
At the other end, De Laet accidentally directed a set piece off his own crossbar and Doukara tried his luck from distance soon before half-time - after which there was a touching moment of solidarity in memory of the late BBC Tees broadcaster Alastair Brownlee.
The fans were creating an impressive atmosphere, although the home support were momentarily quietened as Bellusci again had to save his team-mates.
Aitor Karanka’s visitors were beginning to up the ante, with Cristhian Stuani hitting an effort into the ground and over from close range before heading over shortly afterwards.
Leeds would have grabbed the opener against the run of play, though, was it not for Konstantopoulos, who denied Doukara’s header with a wonderful, low save.
Rhodes, signed for £9million earlier in the month, and Doukara directed wide as the clock wound down, before Gibson picked up a second yellow card.
Doukara had a great chance to capitalise and Charlie Taylor fizzed over as United pushed for a late winner, but it was not to be.
Leeds: Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Bridcutt, Diagouraga (Murphy 90), Dallas (Mowatt 71), Cook, Doukara, Antenucci (Erwin 79). Subs Not Used: Bamba, Adeyemi, Coyle, Peacock-Farrell. Booked: Diagouraga, Bellusci.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Fry, Gibson, De Laet, Clayton, Leadbitter, Stuani (Nugent 67), Ramirez (Adomah 67), Downing, Rhodes (Kalas 90). Subs Not Used: De Pena, De Sart, Agazzi, Forshaw. Sent Off: Gibson (89). Booked: Clayton, Gibson.
Att: 20,424 Ref: Craig Pawson