Visiting skipper Kevin Sinfield slotted the 22nd goal of his Leeds career
Kevin Sinfield was Leeds' matchwinner with another masterful display of kicking as Warrington missed the chance to close the gap on leaders Wigan.
In a match of six tries each, Sinfield kicked all his conversion attempts, before finally burying the Wolves with a stunning, late 45-yard drop goal.
Matt King and Chris Hicks grabbed two tries apiece for Warrington.
But efforts for Scott Donald, Danny Buderus, Ryan Hall and Danny McGuire overcame a 20-12 half-time deficit.
More importantly, set against the unerring Sinfield's erfforts, Lee Briers missed with four of his seven kicks, not managing a successful conversion until Hicks' second try just before the break - and that ultimately proved crucial.
While Leeds move up to fifth, on Hull's shoulders, Warrington remain in second, four points behind Saturday's winners Wigan once again - and level with third-placed St Helens.
It was only Warrington's second home defeat of the season after losing to Wigan at the Halliwell Jones in February. And it was a tremendous response from weakened Leeds, without six regulars, following last weekend's shock 32-26 home defeat by Crusaders.
Kylie Leuluai, Matt Diskin and Brent Webb all face six-week lay-offs, having joined Rob Burrow, Ali Lauitiiti and Luke Burgess on the sidelines.
By contrast, Warrington, coming off the back of five straight wins, were boosted by the return of Richie Mathers against his old club and Vinnie Anderson.
But their last defeat was at Headingley six weeks ago when Leeds ran out 26-18 winners.
Nevertheless, it was former Leeds boss Tony Smith's side who got off to the right start when Michael Monaghan and Ben Westwood combined for King after just five minutes.
But Leeds took the lead with a sizzling solo effort from Keith Senior, the 34-year-old former Great Britain centre turning back the clock by brushing off Adrian Morley and then side-stepping Mathers on a 50-yard sprint for only his second try in 10 games.
Warrington went back in front when Hicks collected Chris Bridge's perfectly-timed kick before David Solomona's handling skills created a Ryan Atkins try after the Kiwi sold Brett Delaney a dummy.
But Briers missed his third conversion and Leeds levelled when Greg Eastwood burst on to McGuire's short pass for his first Super League try since arriving from Canterbury Bulldogs.
Briers made amends for his poor marksmanship with his smart inside pass putting Hicks over for his second try, the former Wales skipper finally landing a conversion to fire Warrington ahead. And Solomona's craft earned a penalty, which Briers slotted to make it 20-12 at the break.
But when Briers failed to make 10 metres with the restart Leeds took advantage for Donald to leap high and gather Sinfield's kick.
King's second try, goaled by Briers, restored the advantage but, in a ding-dong affair, Buderus darted over from dummy-half to make it 26-24. And Warrington were rocked when Ryan Hall, with his thigh heavily strapped, took McGuire's pass, Sinfield's touchline conversion firing Leeds ahead 30-26.
Chris Riley finishing off a mesmerising move to go over in the corner and level again - but Briers again missed the difficult goal attempt, to leave it delicately balanced at 30-30 going into the final quarter.
And it was champions Leeds who showed their class.
McGuire's brilliant long-range try was improved by Sinfield, who then smashed over that stunning long-range drop goals to give his side a valuable seven-point cushion.
And Leeds held on for a hard-fought win which maintains their record against Smith, who has still only overseen one win over Leeds in his coaching career - when the Australian was in charge of Huddersfield seven years ago.
Warrington coach Tony Smith said: "Leeds deserved it. We will have to toughen up in these sorts of games or you become the nearly team.
"You should win a game of rugby league scoring 30 point. I loved some of the tries we scored and some of the attacking play on show.
"But defensively we obviously leaked too many and our ruck area needs to be fixed up. Wee also gave too many penalties away."
Leeds assistant coach Francis Cummins said: "Danny McGuire has proved time and time again that he reads the game so well and pops up in the right place at the right time.
"He and Warrington full-back Richie Mathers go back a long way. Richie knew Danny had a few tricks in his pocket and didn't quite know which one he was going to pull out and he beat him with a bit of pace.
"I don't think either ourselves or Warrington were at our best today but it was a step in the right direction for us and a big confidence booster. Every team goes through blips in a season but the effort the team put in today shows things can happen for us."
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