It was a derby day for Palace to forget as 10-man Brighton ran out comfortable winners at the Amex Stadium, scoring three times in the first half to stun Roy Hodgson’s team.
The Seagulls capitalised on a controversial Glenn Murray penalty to set them on their way, but they did suffer a setback following Shane Duffy’s red card. However, that didn’t disrupt the hosts who quickly added a second through Leon Balogun seconds after his introduction off the bench, and then in first half stoppage-time Florin Andone raced away to net the third.
The Eagles did pull one back with 10 minutes to go when Luka Milivojevic netted a penalty of his own to score his third of the campaign, but the damage had been done long before.
After containing plenty of early Brighton pressure, Palace carved out a great opportunity with their first incisive attack on 16 minutes when Max Meyer slipped Patrick van Aanholt in behind the defence but his cross was headed wide by Andros Townsend.
But soon after the flashpoints started coming thick and fast, beginning on 23 minutes when Kevin Friend handed the Seagulls a contentious spot-kick. Following a scramble inside the box involving Jose Izquierdo and a host of Palace defenders trying to clear their lines, the ball ricocheted back into the Colombian‘s path and James McArthur made what seemed to be a decent tackle as he nudged the ball away.
However, Friend deemed it to be a foul, handing Murray the chance to score in his third-straight game against his former club which he duly did, albeit via a flick off the crossbar.
That lit the blue touchpaper, and five minutes later things boiled over when Murray went down softly in the area under a James Tomkins challenge, prompting some heated words between Shane Duffy and Van Aanholt and the Seagulls defender inexplicably headbutting the Palace man, leading to a red card.
Chris Hughton swiftly shuffled his pack and sent on Balogun, and it proved to be an inspired move as seconds later he was celebrating as he volleyed in a half-cleared corner with his first touch to double the hosts’ lead.
They may have been two goals down, but Palace had a man advantage and they nearly used it to good effect when Wilfried Zaha cut the ball back from the byline for Milivojevic to shoot but the skipper saw his attempt cleared off the line by Bernado, however a first 45 to forget for Hodgson’s men would get even worse.
In the fourth minute of injury-time and the Eagle probing around the Brighton box, a hopeful clearance allowed Andone to scamper down the left and beat Tomkins to the ball, push forward and advance into the area before brushing Tomkins off again to squeeze the ball past Wayne Hennessey and virtually end the contest with a half remaining.
After the break, Palace came close to finding a glimmer of hope when Meyer curled wide soon after play resumed but with Brighton sitting back knowing the result was all-but secured, a frustrated Eagles side found themselves camped in their opponents’ half but restricted to speculative long-rangers that ended up amongst the large travelling support.
But with 10 minutes to play, the deficit was reduced when Zaha was brought down inside the box by a Balogun challenge allowing Milivojevic to send Ryan the wrong way from 12 yards, however it would be too little, too late for the visitors who couldn’t set up the grandstand finish they desired.
Brighton: Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernado, Gross (Balogun 31), Propper, Bissouma, March, Izquierdo (Knockaert 48), Murray (Andone 34). Subs not used: Steele, Bong, Kayal, Locadia.
Palace: Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur (Schlupp 72), Kouyaté (Sørloth 57), Milivojevic, Meyer, Townsend, Zaha. Subs not used: Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Puncheon, Ayew.