|Mowatt 39||Venue: Elland Road
ALEX Mowatt's deflected free kick was the difference between Leeds and Millwall during a tight encounter at Elland Road.
The Lions will rue a poor first-half in which they were overrun by the hosts, who deservedly took the lead five minutes before the break.
Millwall improved in the second period and Martyn Woolford, a January target for the Whites, shot wide when clean through on goal.
Sub Ricardo Fuller brushed the post with a low drive before Alan Dunne denied former-Den forward Steve Morison a certain goal with a last-ditch block.
The Lions saw enough of the ball and created enough openings to deserve an equaliser but Leeds will feel they should have scored a second on the break.
Defeat leaves Ian Holloway's side one point worse off in the table following fourth-bottom Brighton's goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday.
With Michael Tonge ineligible to face his parent club, Millwall's starting line up showed one enforced change from their midweek win at Birmingham City.
Angel Martinez was handed just his fourth start for the Lions – and his first since the 6-1 thrashing at Norwich City on Boxing Day – in Tonge's place.
On the bench, Aiden O'Brien came in for Magaye Gueye, who was left out altogether.
Leeds, who picked up three points at Reading on Tuesday, were fast out of the traps and forced a string of early corners.
They should have taken the lead in the 8th minute when Mowatt fed Charlie Taylor, whose low cross into the box was hooked inches wide of the post by Sam Byram.
Stefan Maierhofer tested Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri for the first time with a long-range half volley before flashing a shot across the face of goal when a pass to a teammate was the better option.
After Diego Fabbrini won a corner in the 18th minute, Lee Martin's delivery was met by Jos Hooiveld and his glancing header looped just over the angle of post and bar.
Fabbrini then drilled into the side netting from Maierhofer's knock-down but Leeds, who had looked far the better side in general play, took the lead in the 39th minute.
The goal came from a set piece after Shaun Williams' trip on Byram led to a free kick 20-yards out.
Mowatt stepped up and, with the aid of a deflection, curled a shot inside Forde's near post.
Leeds could have scored again before half time but Forde made vital saves first to deny Rudy Austin and then foil Morison after the striker pounced on Hooiveld's lapse.
At the interval, Holloway withdrew Maierhofer and brought on Yorkshireman Lee Gregory, who offered a more potent threat as Millwall's lone striker.
Both sides had half-chances in the early stages of the second period but neither Martinez nor Morison could guide their efforts on target.
The Lions were enjoying their best spell of the match when, 18 minutes after the restart, Woolford spurned a gilt-edged chance to draw the scores level.
Gregory won the ball 30 yards out and picked out the overlapping run of the winger, who was clean through on goal but skied his shot over the bar.
Desperate to make amends, Woolford twice went close from distance – drilling inches wide of Silvestri's far post before sending a half-volley whistling over the bar.
As Millwall pushed forward, Leeds became more and more dangerous on the break but both Morison and Marco Antenucci failed to convert good openings.
In the 88th minute, sub Fuller rode two challenges on the edge of the box before shooting into the side netting as the Lions' hopes of an equaliser faded.
Morison should have made sure of the points for Leeds but, with the goal at his mercy, Dunne slid in to snuff out the chance.