Leeds lost for the first time since losing to the same opposition in October, to bring to an end their twelve game unbeaten run.
Cardiff won thanks to a goal in each half from Craig Bellamy and Michael Chopra with a superb strike from Robert Snodgrass sandwiched between the Cardiff goal.
Snodgrass had an early chance for Leeds but he screwed his shot wide.
The home side were in front inside ten minutes when Leeds were caught sleeping at a Cardiff corner.
Cardiff played the corner short and with Leeds all at sea the ball eventually found an unmarked Bellamy who fired past Schmeichel.
Leeds struggled to get any sort of a grip on the game in the opening half hour and Cardiff could have been out of sight as they queued up to shot at Kasper Schmeichel.
The big Danish keeper made three great saves to deny Bellamy, Burke and Chopra as the home side looked to increase the lead.
Leeds started to get into the game as it neared half time but only had a Billy Paynter glancing header that cleared the bar to show for their efforts.
The second half started more evenly and neither side produced a shot in the opening ten minutes to trouble the keepers.
Simon Grayson made a double substitution on 57 minutes, Sanchez Watt and Lloyd Sam replacing Max Gradel and Ross McCormack.
The change quickly made a difference and Sam missed a great chance to bring the sides level a minute later.
Cardiff failed to clear the danger and the ball eventually fell to Robert Snodgrass who cut in from the left to give Heaton no chance with an in swinging shot.
Leeds were dealt a blow soon afterwards when substitute Lloyd Sam was forced off with an injury.
Leeds were enjoying plenty of possession and defender Ben Parker went on a run before seeing his shot saved by Heaton.
The game was becoming a battle in midfield with neither side looking like finding a winner.
Cardiff did eventually find the winning goal with eleven minutes remaining when a ball over the top found Chopra and he beat Schmeichel from a tight angle.
Bradley Johnson came close to equalising for Leeds when his long-range shot was tipped away by Heaton.
Howson then also saw a long-range effort saved by Heaton
In the dying moments, Cardiff almost made it three when Keogh got in behind the Leeds defence and his shot was saved by the feet of Schmeichel.
Despite four minutes of added time Leeds couldn`t find an equaliser as Cardiff jumped above Leeds and back into second place.
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