Huddersfield bounced back from their Challenge Cup exit to present Simon Woolford with his first win as head coach at the expense of reigning champions Leeds.
In contrast to their lethargic display against Catalans Dragons, the Giants were full of energy and invention from the start at Headingley and were good value for their 25-18 victory that further eases their relegation fears.
Below-par Leeds were badly disrupted by injury as they crashed to a fourth successive Betfred Super League defeat which leaves them further adrift of the top four.
The Rhinos were boosted by the return of centre Liam Sutcliffe and forwards Mitch Garbutt and Brett Delaney but they were on the back foot from the moment Huddersfield hooker Kruise Leeming went over for the game’s first try after 10 minutes.
It came after quick reactions from second rower Alex Mellor as he regathered the ball from a probing kick and Russell kicked the first of his four goals.
Leeds quickly got over the shock, however, and took the lead with two contrasting tries in a five-minute spell.
Both tries were converted by Jordan Lilley but the Giants drew level on the half-hour when Russell’s neat pass got second rower Aaron Murphy over and they regained the lead when a break from substitute Daniel Smith set up the position for the impressive Mellor to weave his way to the line.
Russell added both goals to make it 18-12 but the game was held up for 10 minutes for Ward and team-mate Mikolaj Oledzki to have treatment following a clash of heads, with the former taken off for a concussion assessment and the latter carried from the field on a stretcher.
Ward was fit enough to resume at the start of the second half to watch his side draw level for the second time, Cameron Smith getting one over on his older brother in the Huddersfield team by touching down after full-back Jordan Rankin had spilled Myler’s high ball.
The seesaw nature of the contest continued when replacement hooker Adam O’Brien dummied his way over from acting half-back for the Giants’ fourth try and the visitors ought to have extended their lead when centre Lee Gaskell found himself in space but opted to kick despite having two men in support.
Leeds then lost Myler with concussion and Huddersfield visibly grew in confidence.
But their hopes were finally dashed three minutes from the end when the Giants worked their way into position for Russell to put over a drop goal.
By then both teams were down to 12 men after Leeds’ former Huddersfield second rower Brett Ferres and the Giants’ England winger Jermaine McGillvary were sin-binned for fighting.