A 95th minute Ross McCormack tap in gave Leeds United the winning start to 2012 they so desperately needed as an injury-fuelled Christmas disaster was put behind us.

Pre-match huddles for both teams added to the sense of drama at Elland Road as fans speculated whether or not this would be Simon Grayson’s final game in charge. Had Charlie Austin buried an early one-on-one attempt with Andy Lonergan, it may have been just that.

Instead, the scores remained level and the first signs that Andros Townsend would be a huge asset to us started to show as Burnley struggled to cope with his blistering pace down the wing.

Already stretched for numbers throughout the team, Simon Grayson was dealt another huge blow after quarter of an hour when Patrick Kisnorbo left the field injured. With so many injuries to the current side, Simon Grayson hadn’t been able to name a defender on the bench so Lloyd Sam came on with Leeds switching young Zac Thompson to full back and Alex Bruce central.

Paddy’s fall from grace has been painful to watch. He seems to have a compulsory blunder in him every game nowadays – which we’d already seen this afternoon. He never seemed to fully recover from the last injury and if this one is as serious as it looked, it could be the end of his Leeds United career.

Apologies if this sounds a little crass but the forced changed actually worked out pretty well for us. Zac Thompson put in a strong performance which should have moved him up the pecking order a little and Alex Bruce had a relatively good game too.

If the performance of our makeshift team wasn’t enough to restore some hope, the sending off of Keiran Trippier certainly was. Booked for an earlier foul on Andros Townsend, the Tottenham Hotspur youngster once again managed to draw a foul from Trippier and in less than 30 minutes of his Leeds United debut, Townsend had managed to get one of Burnley’s key players sent off.

A man down, Burnley responded as expected – by pulling everyone back and defending for their lives. Half time came and went and whilst dominant, Leeds were struggling to break through Burnley’s defence.

Ramon Nunez had a couple of shots from range, Andros Townsend was a revelation on the wing, Zac Thompson looked beyond his years and the usual suspects Adam Clayton and Aidy White looked to be back in form.

But despite some strong individual performances, Leeds couldn’t find a way through and were duly punished on 68 minutes when the defence switched off and Charlie Austin smashed home an opening goal from absolutely nothing.

What should have been a routine defensive move against ten men (make the numbers count, get the ball, fire it back up field) somehow resulted in the opening goal. It was so unexpected I was barely paying attention when it happened, sort of daydreaming, ready to refocus when the ball headed back up the other end.

This is Leeds and we seldom do things the easy way, but I couldn’t help think back to all the other poor showings we’ve had against ten men. We rely heavily on teams coming at us for goals – it opens space up for when we counter and catch them out, and is precisely why we’re often better away from home.

At Elland Road, with or without ten men, teams are often very defensive in their approach and Leeds struggle to break them down and create openings. This is where players like Max Gradel are so important because they drag players about and create gaps for others to exploit – make no mistake, failing to replace him has really cost us this season.

Regardless, Leeds soldiered on. Burnley had a little flurry after the goal sensing Leeds’ weakness and looked to capitalise, but we rode it out and headed back in the opposite direction.

As we approached full time, I genuinely started to wonder whether this would be Simon Grayson’s final bow – speculation has been rife before, but it’s generally just knee-jerk reactions to the bad patches of form every team suffers. Things seemed different this time though. The injury crisis somehow seemed irrelevant, the knives were being sharpened and Simon Grayson had only minutes to save his job – cue the dramatic finish.

If Hollywood had written this ending the goals would have probably been 30 yard screamers, expertly executed by the protagonist whose crisis of confidence led to a dramatic conclusion. But this is England and we do things differently here – a bundled home 88th minute equaliser from Brian Easton is much more fitting.

Leeds were back level and the fourth official indicated for five minutes of added time. The performance had been better than in recent weeks and a draw was certainly better than defeat. Nevertheless, against ten men, we knew Simon Grayson needed another.

As one, The Whites surged forward to throw everything they had left at Burnley’s resilient defence. Zac Thompson struck first, unlucky to see his effort deflected wide. The seconds ticked away and Lloyd Sam struck what was sure to be Leeds’ last chance agonisingly wide of the post.

Tensions heightened with every attempt Burnley made to time waste, but Leeds still managed to carve out one more chance with Andros Townsend’s long range effort spilled by the Burnley keeper and Ross McCormack on hand to turn it home.

Cue the biggest cheer heard inside Elland Road in months and a Jose Mourinho-esque release of tension from Simon Grayson. The relief was palatable, Grayson lived to fight another day, Leeds remained in the play-off running, Ross McCormack was back amongst the goals and Andros Townsend’s début gave us all reason to believe again – unquestionably the man of the match.

Such highs are always short-lived however. A win at home to Burnley merely papers over the cracks but – thanks to the Arsenal distraction – we now have 12 days before our next important game and there is definitely cause for optimism.

By the time we visit Crystal Palace on Saturday the 14th, Tom Lees will be back in the squad, meaning the defence should be stronger. More importantly, Robert Snodgrass will be nearing a return and with the addition of the lighting fast Andros Townsend on the opposite wing, we’ve effectively doubled our creative options.

Lady Luck shone brightly on us today, but that shouldn’t overshadow the definite improvement we saw. It feels like a corner has been turned and that better times lie ahead. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I really feel we can push on from here – that our recent run was merely a bad patch of form, a giant hurdle we had to overcome to reach the promised land.

Happy New Year all. On and on…