Forest, still without leading scorer Junior Agogo after African Cup of Nations duty with Ghana, were almost gifted a goal in the ninth minute when Lewis McGugan's free-kick was headed too close to his own net for comfort by Leeds defender Alan Sheehan, the ball passing just outside the right hand post.
Kris Commons and Ian Breckin also gave the home crowd cause for alarm by going close but Leeds felt they should have had a 33rd minute penalty when Luke Chambers appeared to handle Darren Kenton's cross inside the box.
Leeds had most of the possession towards the end of the first half , Bradley Johnson twice delivering shots which passed narrowly wide.
It was Forest who twice went close to opening the scoring straight after the interval. Breckin's long ball out of defence found Nathan Tyson who raced into the box, only to drag his shot wide of the far post.
Tyson then rounded Lubomir Michalik on the left and Will Hoskins was only a fraction away from connecting with his cross in the goalmouth.
Leeds had a second penalty claim rejected on 54 minutes. Hoskins was the culprit this time but referee Mark Halsey, surrounded by Leeds players, refused to point to the spot.
The breakthrough arrived when Commons sent over a high cross from the left and Julian Bennett rose to head powerfully past stranded Leeds keeper Casper Ankergren.
Beckford had a 75th minute header cleared off the line but his 17th goal of the season arrived from the spot after Tresor Kandol was felled.