Leeds Utd 0 Cardiff 1
LEEDS: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Harding (Pugh 56), Miller, Gregan (Douglas 69), Lewis, Healy, Hulse, Blake (Moore 76).
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Walton.
CARDIFF: Alexander, Weston, Loovens, Cox, Barker, Cooper (Ardley 84), Ledley, Whitley, Boland, Koumas, Jerome.
Subs Not Used: Lee, Parry, Mulryne, Margetson.
Jason Koumas curled home a first-half free-kick to condemn disappointing Leeds to their second home defeat of the season and make it a happy return to Elland Road for former chairman Peter Ridsdale.
A small group of Leeds fans staged a protest when Ridsdale stepped off Cardiff's team coach, but the home supporters will have been more concerned with matters on the field as their side managed just two first-half efforts on target and only a handful in the second period.
Ridsdale, blamed by fans for Leeds' financial crisis and now Cardiff's executive vice-chairman, laughed off the protest as he returned to Elland Road for the first time since quitting as chairman in March 2003.
Cardiff made much the brighter start and forced Neil Sullivan into two early saves, first from Kevin Cooper's long-range effort and then from Joe Ledley after he latched onto Rhys Weston's ball into the penalty area.
Leeds had failed to muster a shot when Cardiff went close again in the 18th minute, striker Cameron Jerome heading Koumas' free-kick just wide.
The visitors went closer still minutes later when Glenn Loovens crashed a shot against the crossbar following Koumas' corner, while nearly half an hour had passed before Leeds created their first chance, striker David Healy firing over the crossbar from 20 yards.
But it came as no surprise when Cardiff took the lead. Sean Gregan hauled down Koumas within striking distance when left wanting for pace and the Wales international picked himself up to curl a pin-point free-kick beyond Sullivan into the bottom corner.
Liam Miller tested Neil Alexander at the other end, but Cardiff continued to boss proceedings.
Kevin Blackwell made just one change to the side that beat Leicester last week with Gregan, back from suspension, replacing teenager Simon Walton in midfield, while on-loan Leeds striker Michael Ricketts was not allowed to appear for Cardiff. Neil Cox, Kevin Cooper and Willie Boland all returned for the visitors.
Danny Pugh replaced the injured Dan Harding shortly after the restart as Leeds continued to labour.
Visiting striker Jerome headed wide from Boland's cross, while Eddie Lewis' 64th-minute shot that flew over the crossbar was Leeds' first effort of the half.
Substitute Ian Moore tested Alexander with his first touch, drilling a right-footed shot on target that the goalkeeper did well to hold.
Matthew Kilgallon went close with an overhead kick from Gary Kelly's free-kick and Healy volleyed over as Leeds chased an equaliser.
Rob Hulse headed Kelly's free-kick wide in the last minute, but Cardiff held on to secure a fourth away win and boost their play-off hopes.