Leeds (12) 26
Tries: Ablett, Hall, Webb, McGuire Goals: Sinfield 5
Warrington (6) 16
Tries: King, Grix, Harrison Goals: Bridge 2
Leeds made light of England captain Jamie Peacock's early knee injury
Warrington missed the chance to return to the top as they slumped to a fourth Super League defeat of the season at Headingley against champions Leeds.
The Wolves led 6-0 after 12 minutes through Matt King's converted try.
But, despite losing Jamie Peacock to an early knee injury, Leeds roared back as Carl Ablett and Ryan Hall scored tries.
Brent Webb crossed three minutes after the restart, Danny McGuire added number four and, despite late tries from Simon Gris and Ben Harrison, Leeds hung on.
Kevin Sinfield kicked all four conversions, as well as a penalty, the reliable skipper's 10-point haul ultimately proving the difference between the two teams.
Victory over a team led by former Leeds coach Tony Smith was all the more satisfying as it was a fifth win in six games for improving Leeds, who climb a place to sixth.
Despite the absence of chief playmakers Richie Myler and Michael Monaghan, Smith's in-form Wolves dominated early on, taking the lead when King touched down Grix's grubber kick.
And, against a side who had mercilessly plundered 24 tries in two games, the Rhinos' prospects did not look good when England captain Peacock was forced off after only seven minutes.
But the champions rallied well to produce some of their best rugby of the season.
Samoan prop Kylie Leuluai did his best to make up for Peacock's absence with a series of crunching runs and hits, while Ablett maintained his spectacular rise to prominence and McGuire and Webb produced dazzling handling.
Having weathered Warrington's early storm, substitute Ablett, a part-time centre forced into the role of prop, scored an equalising try within minutes of taking to the field, crashing over from McGuire's short pass.
And the home side took the lead on 27 minutes when England winger Hall took full-back Webb's cut-out pass to cross at the corner.
Leeds extended their tenuous half-time lead four minutes into the second half when a barnstorming run from centre Keith Senior opened up the Warrington defence for Webb to take a return pass and score.
Leeds winger Lee Smith's 60-metre run then set up the penalty which earned a sin binning for Warrington winger Chris Hicks and the chance for Sinfield to stretch his side further clear at 20-6.
And Ablett then broke through the Wolves' 12-man defence to send McGuire away for a clinching fourth try.
The Wolves took advantage of being restored to their full complement for the last 10 minutes, when Grix and Harrison both crossed, but it was too little, too late.
Leeds coach Brian McClennan said:
"I wouldn't call it the best performance of the year - we put in a tremendous effort against Melbourne - but the attitude and commitment was really good.
"In the first 10 or 12 minutes we hardly got out of our half and we didn't have much ball last 10 minutes either.
"We spent quite bit of the game with only three subs and we lost another player at half-time so to hang on in the end was a very good effort.
"Carl Ablett is very understated. He's got great footwork. We haven't had him on the pitch much this year and we've really missed him."
Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith said:
"It's not a great night for us. We're disappointed.
"We had a reasonable start without being terrific. We were a little bit off the pace.
"It wasn't until the end that we found the desperation and energy and lifted ourselves and showed what we can do.
"We showed some spirit but we need to show it a bit earlier than when the game is out of our grasp."
Leeds Rhinos: Webb, Smith, Delaney, Senior, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Kirke, Clarkson.
Replacements: Diskin, Eastwood, Bailey, Ablett.
Warrington Wolves: Mathers, Hicks, Bridge, King, Riley, Grix, Briers, Morley, Higham, Harrison, L Anderson, Westwood, Atkins.
Replacements: V Anderson, Solomona, Wood, Cooper.
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).