Louise Taylor John Smith's Stadium

Leeds United fans love patronising their West Yorkshire neighbours by claiming the so-called "M62" derby does not really mean too much to them, but there was no disguising the visitors' delight at the final whistle.

If Neil Warnock's team are to stand a chance of renewing a somewhat loftier trans-Pennine rivalry with Manchester United they need to revive their recently fading play-off hopes and begin moving out of mid-table. That process was started courtesy of an ultimately comfortable win against a Huddersfield team that, pre kick-off, had looked the better bet for a promotion challenge.

Sacked, controversially, by Leeds in order to make way for Warnock in January, Simon Grayson has channelled his anger at being so unceremoniously dropped by the club he will always support into steering Huddersfield out of League One and into a Championship season that promises more than mere stabilisation.

Warnock, a Huddersfield manager during the 1990s, is under significantly greater pressure to escape this division but he will enjoy his 64th birthday party on Saturday night. "I don't look it though, do I?" said the ever youthful Leeds manager before hailing a "fabulous" performance from his side. Grayson did not demur. "Leeds were sharper, they won more individual battles," he said. "It was very disappointing."

The low winter sun shining on Yorkshire on Saturday lunchtime posed particular dangers to drivers and goalkeepers but Alex Smithies generally had little need of the peaked cap he wore as a first-half precaution against being blinded by the early December light. Unfortunately, on the two occasions he was required to make serious saves during that half he was beaten. Maybe the sun played a part but he really should have held Michael Tonge's equalising shot instead of looking mortified after fumbling it.

Few of his peers would have been able to repel the second Leeds goal though. A terrific drive into the top corner from Luciano Becchio, it arrived at the end of a move initiated by an imperious long pass from Tonge that revived memories of the midfielder's Premier League pomp.

A slow, hesitant start from Leeds meant they quickly fell behind when Chris Atkinson's assured shot beat Paddy Kenny. Newly returned from a loan stint at Chesterfield, it was the young midfielder's first goal for Huddersfield and, temporarily at least, silenced the "Marching on Together" soundtrack provided, on semi-permanent loop, by visiting fans.

A second interruption in transmission of the Leeds anthem came when, shortly before half-time, Huddersfield drew level from the penalty spot following Becchio's foul.

Adam Clayton still variously describes the moment Warnock told him he was surplus to requirements at Elland Road last summer as "a hammer blow", "a shock to the system" and "upsetting" so when the Huddersfield midfielder stepped forward to take the kick a sense of revenge was most definitely in the air.

Clayton secured it too, striking an excellent penalty hard and low into the bottom corner before running towards the dug-outs, raising his arms in celebration and seeing Warnock acknowledge his effort with a clap.

Although Clayton and Atkinson showed promise in central midfield they were eclipsed by the excellent Tonge, and Grayson also suffered from the lack of real attacking menace Jermaine Beckford might have provided. The former Leeds striker, borrowed from Leicester, was injured while James Vaughan, another high-profile forward, is not fully fit and could only manage a cameo substitute appearance.

Shortly after Vaughan's introduction David Norris volleyed Leeds's technically superlative third. By the time Becchio headed the fourth from Ryan Hall's cross Warnock must have been looking forward to a large slice of birthday cake.

"Becchio hasn't always made the most of his ability, which is sad," he said. "But he did today. When Luciano plays well Leeds play well."