Leeds coach Brian McDermott was mightily relieved to halt the Salford bandwagon with a tense 22-18 win at the AJ Bell Stadium that keeps his side in touch with First Utility Super League leaders St Helens.

The Rhinos looked to be in control after quick-fire tries from second rowers Carl Ablett and Stevie Ward early in the second half put them 22-12 in front but the Red Devils, buoyed by three consecutive wins, roared back to set up a nail-biting finish.

"It's been a while since we've beaten a team comfortably or been beaten comfortably," McDermott said. "Every game is tight and tense but I am hopeful it will put us in good stead for the end of the year."

While Leeds are guaranteed their place in the play-offs, Salford look likely to miss out but, with Ben Jones-Bishop and Michael Dobson among their new signings for next season, they are expected to challenge for honours in 2015.

"It's scary but good for the game," McDermott said. "T hey are a good team and this place is bouncing.

"You could put some decent money on that you'd beat them for the last 10 or 15 years but you can't at the moment. They're building gradually.

"We faced a team that had the wind in their sails. They're a confident team playing on top of their game."

Leeds, who were without skipper Kevin Sinfield as he began a two-match ban, led 12-6 after 22 minutes thanks to tries from Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins but were never comfortable.

Salford lost full-back Kevin Locke with a recurrence of a groin injury before half-time but pushed the visitors all the way, with impressive substitute Jordan Walne scoring his first try for the club on 67 minutes, to add to earlier efforts from Junior Sa'u and Theo Fages.

"The effort was good from us for large parts of the game," said Salford coach Iestyn Harris, the former Leeds skipper.

"Logan (Tomkins) has been ill for five or six days so it was a super effort from him and we lost a couple of people through injury and had to work hard for each other.

"We just went a little bit loose at the start of the second half which allowed Leeds to play quick and they scored 10 points in that time."

Salford are now four points behind eighth-placed Widnes with five matches left and Harris believes they need to beat champions Wigan at the DW Stadium next Thursday to keep alive their play-off hopes.

"We've got five games left and, unless we win five out of five, I don't think we're going to have a chance of getting in the top eight," Harris said.

"So it's a game we'll go into with real energy and excitement about challenging the double winners."