WILFRIED Gnonto conjured up a carbon-copy of Paolo Di Canio to help Leeds scratch a seven-year itch.
The teenage sensation added to his growing reputation by scoring twice – the first a stunning scissor-volley inside 30 seconds, a dead-ringer for fellow Italian Di Canio‘s celebrated strike for West Ham against Wimbledon 22 years ago.
Gnonto’s heroics put the Premier League strugglers on the way to round four, and meant the long wait since their last FA Cup tie at Elland Road in 2016 was more than worth it.
Gnonto’s venomous volley eased the pressure on boss Jesse Marsch – who celebrated just a third win in 18 games.
The livewire 19-year-old could have had a first-half hat-trick on a night of chasing shadows for the managerless Bluebirds – who racked up a 10th winless game.
Leeds made a long-awaited cup return to Elland Road for the first time since beating Yorkshire rivals Rotherham 2-0 seven years ago.
They joined Stockport as the second club in cup history to be handed 10 consecutive away ties when they were paired with City last month.
Two late goals in South Wales secured this third round replay by the skin of their teeth but Marsch’s men were soon in cruise control on the way to a first win since early November.
Gnonto got them off to a dream start with his second goal since a £3.8million move from FC Zurich in September.
Cardiff’s hopes of keeping it tight were left in tatters as Rodrigo swung in a cross from the right which dropped invitingly over defender Tom Sang.
Gnonto did the rest with a memorable right-foot scissor-kick into the roof of the net from a tight angle at the far post.
The Championship strugglers couldn’t handle Gnonto, who blazed over from Sam Greenwood’s cross six yards out.
It took a great save from Jak Alnwick to deny Leeds’ man of the moment after he used his pace to sprint through on goal.
Greenwood’s effort was hacked off the line by Joel Bagan after Gnonto turned provider but it wasn’t long until Leeds stretched their lead with two goals in the space of as many minutes to underline their dominance.
Rodrigo raced onto Jack Harrison’s 34th-minute through ball to round Alnwick and fire into the bottom corner.
Before Cardiff could recover, Gnonto cut in from the left to beat Alnwick at the keeper’s near post with a powerful angled drive, Harrison again the provider.
City thought they’d pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, but skipper Cutis Nelson’s close-range header from a corner was ruled out for offside by VAR.
Gnonto came within inches of his third with a shot into the side-netting before he was taken off to a standing ovation.
Patrick Bamford came off the bench to calmly slot home twice inside five minutes to book an 11th straight cup trip to Accrington or Boreham Wood before substitute Callum Robinson headed one back and stroked home an injury-time second from the spot.