Struggling Brighton edged a point closer to Premier League safety after Pascal Gross’ second-half equaliser salvaged a 1-1 draw with Newcastle.
Gross nodded in 15 minutes from time to give Chris Hughton’s Seagulls a four-point advantage over 18th-placed Cardiff with two games to go, in addition to a significantly superior goal difference.
Albion looked set to suffer an alarming sixth defeat in seven league games after Ayoze Perez’s fifth goal in three matches gave the visitors a deserved first-half lead.
The Seagulls had not registered a top-flight goal since beating bitter rivals Crystal Palace on March 9 before midfielder Gross halted the lengthy drought at 631 minutes to ease their relegation fears.
Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds, beaten 1-0 at Fulham earlier on Saturday, must now take maximum points from games against Crystal Palace and Manchester United to stand any realistic chance of catching Albion and avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Brighton used the fixture to mark the 40th anniversary of reaching the top-flight for the first time and paraded members of the 1978-79 promotion-winning squad on the Amex Stadium pitch at half-time.
👏 The boys are back in town!— Brighton & Hove Albion ⚽️ (@OfficialBHAFC) April 27, 2019
The current priority is very much about retaining their place in the division following a torrid first four months of 2019 which, prior to kick-off, had yielded just eight points.
Cardiff’s narrow loss at Craven Cottage significantly boosted the Seagulls’ chances of doing so and lifted the mood among supporters who had witnessed just two league goals on home soil this year.
However, Newcastle – without ill captain Jamaal Lascelles and injured record signing Miguel Almiron – were in no mood to roll over and dampened the optimism with 18 minutes played.
Paul Dummett’s deep cross from the left was superbly chested down by Salomon Rondon for Perez to expertly smash into the top right corner from close to the penalty spot.
Venezuela international Rondon was then denied a penalty by referee Mike Dean after his heels appeared to be clipped by Brighton captain Bruno.
Spanish forward Perez, whose goal was the only effort on target at either end in the opening 45 minutes, had earlier taken an inadvertent whack from Seagulls defender Shane Duffy and reluctantly had to be replaced by Kenedy 12 minutes before the break.
The Magpies had another spot-kick claim turned down early in the second half when Dale Stephens handled Isaac Hayden’s goal-bound effort from a Matt Ritchie corner.
Albion continued to offer little in attack, although centre-back Duffy rippled the side-netting from a Gross corner.
The hosts then claimed for a penalty six minutes later when Glenn Murray received a nudge from Ritchie following Bernardo’s cross.
Time appeared to be ticking away from Brighton before a leveller duly arrived with 75 minutes on the clock.
Bruno’s hopeful cross from the right was headed on by veteran striker Murray, allowing the onrushing Gross to beat Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka to the ball and nod home.
Murray had a golden chance to grab a dramatic winner and virtually ensure survival but he headed over from Knockaert’s cross in the final minute, leaving Hughton’s men to wait a little longer to secure their Premier League status.
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