Clarke bags late winner as part of a double to down the Blades at Bramall Lane
Coventry City picked up an invaluable three points against another promotion hopeful with a spirited late win over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane courtesy of a Leon Clarke double.
Clarke gave the Sky Blues the lead after 14 minutes typical poacher's finish, Dave Kitson levelled for the hosts with 17 minutes to go and then Clarke bagged a second in the 87th minute to net his fifth goal in the last six games.
City boss Mark Robins made two changes to the side that picked up a point at Preston the previous weekend, bringing Gary McSheffrey and Stephen Elliott back into the side at the expense of John Fleck and James Bailey.
It was Elliott who looked one of the more lively City players as well in the opening stages as he tried to pick up loose balls from a scrappy midfield battle.
City looked the more dangerous of the two sides though as the Blades seemed to sit back and launch long balls aimed for Chris Porter which kept coming back via the heads of Richard Wood and William Edjenguele.
Elliott then carved an opening for the Sky Blues after nine minutes when he fired a low ball across the six-yard box which nearly picked out Carl Baker at the back post, the skipper stretching to meet the ball but popping his effort just over the bar from four yards.
He got the assist his early play deserved after 14 minutes though when he delivered an identical ball from the right this time which found Clarke on the edge of the six-yard box to tap home with the help of the underside of the crossbar.
The confidence they were given by the goal was evident as well when, five minutes later, Gary McSheffrey drove a 30-yard daisy cutter which whipped just past George Long's post.
Clarke was then presented with a half-chance to double his tally five minutes before the break when he was found in space just outside the area and charged towards goal only for his poked effort from ten yards to be blocked behind by Neill Collins.
The Sky Blues picked up right where they left off after the break and nearly went two up five minutes after the restart when Edjenguele connected with a corner delivery from Carl Baker to send a header goalwards only to be denied by a great save from Long.
It was two minutes before the hour before Sheffield United registered their first effort on goal courtesy of substitute Jonathan Forte who picked up a ball just inside City's area and fired at goal, Joe Murphy spilling the ball after his initial stop but then collecting to put an end to the danger.
Christie seemed to be enjoying the freedom to push forward and got a shot of his own in for City tow minutes later, firing a somewhat ambitious effort from just outside the corner of the area for Long to comfortably collect.
The Blades came their closest to scoring after 68 minutes when a through ball picked out Kevin McDonald who only needed to toe a shot past Murphy only to be brought down by a well-timed challenge from Wood, referee Chris Sarginson waving away appeals for a penalty.
The hosts did get their leveller though after 73 minutes through Kitson when substitute Barry Robson, who had only been on the pitch for a minute, whipped in a corner with his first touch and picked out the striker to power a header past Murphy.
Kitson had a gilt-edged chance for a second six minutes later when City failed to deal with a ball in the box which bobbled around before falling to the feet of the striker who smashed a half volley into the side-netting from eight yards.
The momentum that United had built up though was stopped dead in it's tracks with three minutes to go when Franck Moussa picked up a ball in the final third and fired from 25 yards, Long parrying his effort into the path of Clarke who fired across Long's body and into the far bottom corner to send the City fans behind the goal into delerium.
Having only just recovered from the celebrations of Clarke's second, substitute Conor Thomas nearly made it three when he broke away to go one-on-one with Long but shjot at the 'keeper's legs under pressure from Collins.
Steven Jennings then had a chance of his own to put the game beyond the reach of the Blades deep into injury time when City outnumbered the Blades back line on the counter attack only for Long to foil the midfielder's finish with a block against hius chest.
It did not matter though as the Sky Blues saw out the remaining added time to bag the three points and move them to within a point of the top six.
Attendance: 17,511 (1,477 Sky Blue Army)
Coventry City: Murphy, Christie, Wood, Edjenguele, Adams, Moussa, Jennings, Baker (c), McSheffrey (Fleck 74), Jennings, Elliott (Thomas 69)
Subs: Dunn (GK), Clarke, Cameron, Barton, Bell
Sheffield Utd: Long, Higginbotham, Maguire, Flynn, Doyle (c), Porter (Forte 55), McDonald, Kitson, Collins, Murphy (Robson 71), McMahon
Subs: Coyne (GK), Westlake, Cresswell, Robson, Ironside, De Giromalo
Referee: C Sarginson
Assistant Referees: R Joyce, M Dicicco
Fourth Official: I Dudley