Simon Grayson's side may have eventually earned a place in the Carling Cup second round courtesy of a rousing fightback that saw two goals by Ramon Nunez and a header from Ross McCormack eventually account for neighbours Bradford City.
But that did little to ease the unrest among supporters, many of whom could be heard chanting 'Bates out' and 'where's all our money gone?' even as they disappeared into the Leeds night.
Tellingly, the home fans had not turned on their manager once during a thrilling 90 minutes despite United going so close to being humbled with chants of 'there's only one Simon Grayson' indicating where they feel the blame lies for the summer travails.
The £7m spent on adding executive facilities to the East Stand is the main bone of contention among the Elland Road faithful, chiefly because just a fraction of that amount has been spent in the transfer market.
Whether Leeds invest further before the deadline at the end of the month remains to be seen but, on the evidence of how League Two Bradford came close to pulling off a major shock, it is to be hoped the club's recruitment is far from over.
As for City, they emerged with tremendous credit from a pulsating first-round tie.
It had been evident from the very first exchanges that manager Peter Jackson had sent his side out to try and get at their hosts.
In possession, Bradford spread the ball with adventurous intent at every opportunity, while without it they snapped and snarled at United's heels.
Such an adventurous approach paid dividends on the half-hour with a goal of stunning simplicity as Mark Stewart raced to the by-line and pulled a cross back for Jack Compton to convert from close range.
City had come very close to scoring in identical fashion 12 minutes earlier, when Michael Flynn's drilled cross from the left just evading David Syers, so Leeds could not say they hadn't been warned.
In fact, United's backline looked decidedly shaky throughout the first half with Stewart wasting two excellent chances before Compton had struck the breakthrough and James Hanson heading wide when he really should have hit the target.
Going forward, Leeds did fare marginally better in those opening 45 minutes with Adam Clayton, in particular, posing a major threat.
It was a cross from the former Manchester City midfielder that created United's best first-half opening only for Nunez to volley wildly over despite being unmarked deep inside the penalty area.
Nunez also fired into the side-netting just before Compton's opener but, otherwise, Leeds deserved the booing that met the half-time whistle.
Leeds badly needed a lift and it came within 26 seconds of the restart when Nunez made amends for his earlier miss by smashing in the equaliser following neat work by Clayton and Lloyd Sam.
On league standing, that should have been the prelude to a United onslaught as the Championship club reasserted their authority.
Instead, it was the plucky Bantams who regained the lead on 57 minutes when Michael Flynn unleashed a stunning half-volley past Andy Lonergan after being picked out by Robbie Threlfall.
Cue more unrest on the terraces as the home fans vented their fury once again only for Grayson's side to draw level for a second time with 20 minutes remaining.
Debutant Tom Lees, who last season helped Bury to promotion from League Two when on loan, was the creator with a deep cross from the right flank that McCormack powered past Oscar Jansson.
Once level, the home side visibly relaxed and started to play with much more confidence.
And it was from one such neat move that the winner came in the 75th minute.
Nunez, once again, was heavily involved with a neat turn before he switched play to Sam on the right flank.
The Leeds-born wideman then controlled before drilling a low cross that Bantams captain Guy Branston inadvertently diverted over goalkeeper Jansson with the deftest of touches that allowed Nunez to gleefully smash into an empty net.
City's brave resistance was now broken and it took a stunning block by Branston and a flying save from Jansson to keep out two fierce late drives from McCormack as the hosts finished strongly.
Losing after such a Herculean effort was, it must be said, rough on City and their 4,107-strong travelling army of fans gave Jackson's players a deserved standing ovation at the final whistle.
The hope for the proud visiting hordes as they headed home must be that Bradford can use such an encouraging derby display to kick-start a promotion challenge and end the club's decade-long decline.
Leeds United: Lonergan; Connolly (Lees 62), Kisnorbo, O'Brien (Bromby 62), Parker; Brown, Clayton; Sam, Howson, Nunez; McCormack (Taylor 90). Substitutes (not used): Rachubka, Bruce, Thompson.
Bradford City: Jansson; Moore, Branston, Williams, Threlfall; Compton, Mitchell (Hannah 84), Flynn, Syers (Jones 63), Stewart (Rodney 78); Hanson. Substitutes (not used): McLaughlin, O'Brien, Oliver, Wells.
Referee: C Webster (Tyne & Wear).