Gary McSheffrey's stoppage-time penalty earned Coventry's first win in four attempts to haul them off the foot of the Championship table.
McSheffrey opened the scoring with a 21st-minute spot-kick before Leeds' top scorer Ross McCormack levelled shortly after the half-hour mark.
But McSheffrey won the game against his former club with his second penalty after Aidan White's foul.
It inflicted a second straight defeat on managerless Leeds, who drop to 11th.
Neither side had created a chance of note before referee Pat Miller ruled visiting midfielder Danny Pugh's challenge on Coventry striker Alex Nimely in the penalty area was a foul.
McSheffrey, on loan at Elland Road for the second half of the 2009/10 season, stepped up to place the subsequent spot-kick into Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan's bottom right-hand corner.
McCormack had pulled a chance for the visitors wide from 20 yards in only the third minute, but grabbed his 16th goal of the season to haul his side level on 32 minutes.
Coventry enjoyed their best spell before the break with Nimely, Clive Platt and McSheffrey all going close.
Leeds enjoyed more possession after the break, Adam Clayton's rising shot clearing the bar and White forcing Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy into a fine save with a 12-yard shot.
Chances dried up midway through the second period but the home side still looked the more likely to break the deadlock.
And they clinched a vital victory when McSheffrey's power penalty condemned Leeds to a stoppage-time defeat for the second time in four days.
VIEWS FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Coventry manager Andy Thorn:
"Gary McSheffrey led by example. I thought he was exceptional, showed real character and leadership qualities.
"Being a local lad as well he is desperate to do well and it was a massive result for us tonight.
"People had written us off and it has made us strong as a group."
Leeds caretaker boss Neil Redfearn:
"We were good against Bristol City and we were okay against Brighton, but tonight I don't think we turned up.
"No disrespect to Coventry, but they are a team bang at the bottom of the league, they are struggling and the last thing you want to do is give them a leg up. We let them off the hook.
"It is difficult for me because I am only a caretaker manager, but a few home truths had to be told at half time."